Group singing brings benefits

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The joy of singing . . . The happy singers of the Neuro Singing for Fun group gather at Caversham Baptist Church on Monday for their weekly singing session, led by Clare Adams (middle row, second from right). PHOTO: BRENDA HARWOOD

“I get by with a little help from my friends, gonna try with a little help from my friends . . .”

As the Beatles song rings out around the room, smiles light up the faces of the Neuro Singing for Fun group.

Led by choir leader Clare Adams, the 15 singers are part of a 10-week pilot to bring the benefits of group singing to people with neurological conditions.

The brainchild of Dunedin’s Neuro Interest Group, which includes brain health researchers and neurological support organisations, the Neuro Singing for Fun pilot is in its fifth week.

Brain Injury Association (Otago) liaison officer Cathy Matthews said the idea for the singing group came about in discussions during the recent Brain Awareness Week, and funding of $1000 for the pilot had been sourced through the Bendigo Valley Trust.

“We had heard of similar singing groups in other parts of the country, which were having great results.”

Initially involving people with a range of neurological conditions, including stroke, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and brain injury, along with their supporters, the Neuro Singing for Fun group meets weekly to sing together under the expert guidance of Ms Adams.

During each session, the group moves through a selection of simple, popular songs from across the years, along with some Maori songs.

Singer Debbie Booner, who uses a wheelchair, has been coming to Neuro Singing for Fun sessions since the beginning, and loves every minute of it.

“It’s really nice to have something I can actually participate in,” she said.

Beverley Livingstone, who supports a friend with Alzheimer’s, said it was nice to see everyone enjoying singing together.

“I hear my friend singing away, and I feel it’s very good for her to remember these songs.”

Ms Adams, who leads several community singing groups in the city, has long had an interest in the neurological benefits of singing.

There were enormous benefits to be gained from singing for people with neurological conditions, she said.

Mrs Matthews said the 10-week pilot of the Neuro Singing for Fun group was set to continue until Queens Birthday weekend, but the search was on for funding to keep it going.

The Neuro Singing for Fun group meets weekly on Mondays, from 10.30am, at the Caversham Baptist Church (entrance at rear). Interested people are welcome to attend.