Singing and voicework for those with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and special needs as well as stroke patients and the carers for these groups: an on-going assessment of the benefits of working with voice to activate and improve muscular, aerobic and cardio-vascular exercise and overall well-being.

Liz McNaughton, M.A.,LL.B

It is difficult to give quantitative data as these people are particularly vulnerable and the necessary methods for quantitative research would be invasive and therefore highly counter-productive, interfering with any improvement already manifesting in greater confidence and self-esteem.

Qualitative feedback shows an overwhelming case for the benefits of introducing this work into recovery and maintenance strategies in order to gain improved physical, mental, emotional and social communication skills.

A feeling of well-being dominates the comments in the feedback as well as an ability to focus on tasks, to co-ordinate, as in clapping and stamping while carrying out vocal tasks, and an improved memory and general state of mind at the time of the activity and afterwards.

Music has long been seen as a healer and the singing voice is particularly significant. However the enjoyment and benefit to many people of choral singing begs the question of why so many consider themselves unworthy of using their voices to sing.

The author has approached many groups to encourage voicework as a means of achieving better health and confidence for the whole person and although this was often regarded with some doubt, caution and not a little curiosity, when given the opportunity of holding workshops, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Any weakness in tone, pitch or rhythm was as nothing compared with the enormous joy of making sound more and more freely. Frequency of sessions also showed improvement in these areas along with good dynamic control.

This paper highlights the benefits of this work and urges others to help build up a body of information that will stand strongly in the stead of quantitative data providing a persuasive argument in favour of encouraging this opportunity for all by convincing doctors, health workers and everyone involved in caring for these people of the benefits.

With increasing numbers of frail and elderly people surviving longer, the social significance of providing voice training is clear as it is vitally important to improve the quality of that lifespan and allow more possibility of worthwhile and life-enriching activity.

The benefits to carers and cared for are many as are the rewards both professionally and personally to those privileged to work in these arenas.

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