Health & Spirit

The music therapy that helped Gabby Giffords speak again is getting dementia patients moving

Stacey Burling, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Health & Fitness

She admitted it made her sweat a little. "I'm going to call the doctor for you," one class member quipped.

It would be harder to use pre-recorded music, she said, because she has to read the crowd and adjust the pace accordingly. Some days, they're really sluggish. On this one, they were alert, but she still had to slow down sometimes.

As the end of the 50-minute class was nearing, she finished as she usually does with her version of a 1950's song, "See ya later alligator. After a while crocodile." She gave each class member a chance to fill in some missing words, a task that was beyond some of them.

She praised them for their participation. "We worked really hard today," she said. "Sometimes you need to give yourself some self love. Think of all the wonderful things our bodies can do."

For a group like this the object is keep active enough to maintain some strength, not train for a 5K race. Bybee's goal is to keep people as engaged as possible. On this day, only one of the men slept through the whole class. Most looked livelier than they had before she arrived. Students praised the way she prepared for the class and individualized instruction. Two said they were happy to get some exercise and socialize.

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They had no idea how Bybee had used simple melodies and rhythms to trigger improved movements. They just knew they felt better.

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