There has always been music in Irene and Ant Young’s home and it is a very important part of their lives. Mother and son live together in the house in Essex that has been Irene’s home for 40 years.
Irene, now 87, was married in 1940 and remembers going to the Tottenham Royal, tea dances and Lyceum ballroom in her younger days. She is especially fond of music by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Vera Lynn and Lisa Minelli as well as watching musicals, particularly those featuring Fred Astaire. Just saying the song title ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ brings a smile to Irene’s face.
Music was Ant’s passion from as early as he can remember. He started to purchase records every week with his pocket money in 1967 and eventually built up a record library of over 5,000 albums and singles.
Ant moved back into the family home around 6 years ago and Irene was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease with Lewy Bodies in March 2015. Currently, Irene listens to music on the adverts – often music of times gone by – and in television programmes, which she enjoys. Ant says: “Somewhere in the brain music seems to evoke memories that are buried. It seems to bring past events to the fore for people living with dementia.”
Both Ant, 64, and Irene regularly attend an Alzheimer’s Society Singing for the Brain Group. Ant says: “No matter what sort of mood you are in early in the day, as soon as we hear music we feel better. It is like something in the brain that switches on. I think it triggers something that cannot be lifted in any other way aside from singing. You can see the joy on everyone’s face.”
In recent weeks the couple have joined with more than 60 other participants to enjoy one of the Singing for the Brain sessions on Zoom and it has made such a difference to their lives in lockdown. Ant comments: “There is a lady who attends our session who is unable to speak any more, but you suddenly see a connection and she gets a twinkle in her eye. I don’t think anything else apart from music would lift her in this way. On Zoom, you can see people’s faces and they smile when the music starts. It boosts people for a couple of days.”
“It was so interesting to see Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir, and the joy it brought to people who were participating. I will be surprised if they find a cure for dementia in my lifetime, so in the meantime, music has a huge part to play in helping people affected by dementia. We have to make it available and accessible to everyone.”
Although Irene clearly benefits from the singing sessions, before and during lockdown, Ant firmly believes music and the community of the group is as much for the carers. “A lot of people lose sight of the importance music has for us. If we are able to meet up and have contact with other carers it helps us get by, we can share experiences and help each other through the bad days. We get strength from each other.
“I want to say a huge thank you everyone at Alzheimer’s Society who helps deliver the Singing for the Brain service.”