“I have loved music all my life,” says Annie Chinfen. It’s clearly still as important to her as ever and she regrets that she didn’t continue with piano lessons. “I learnt to play for a year when I was younger, but I am so sorry now that I gave it up,” she admits. “It would be so therapeutic to play an instrument now that I have dementia. It would help me to think and to remember.”
A former nurse, Annie is now 90 and was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2018. During lockdown and since it has relaxed, Annie has been staying with her daughter, son in law and grandchildren. Her grandson plays drums and guitar and is a member of Harlow Rock School. “I love to hear him play,” she enthuses.
Annie also enjoys singing – anything from church music to rock and roll, popular music and ballads. Her favourite song is “We’ll meet again”, which reminds her of her late husband. “I turn on the radio and play Classic FM and I feel I am with him. He used to love his classical music and I feel he is sat by my side when I listen to the music play.”
Attending the Alzheimer’s Society’s virtual Singing for the Brain group during the pandemic has been a great benefit to Annie. She loves meeting people face to face, but also enjoys seeing them on her iPad during lockdown. “I can work iPads with a little help from my daughter and we join everyone singing on Zoom. It is lovely to see all the words of the songs in front of me and I really enjoy singing with everyone. I am sometimes a little worried that I sing too loud!”
Annie gets frustrated with her poor short-term memory and read as much as she could about her condition when she was diagnosed so that she could ‘do the right things’ to help herself. She continues: “Music is more important to me now that I have Alzheimer’s because I can remember the words to the music on days when other things are more difficult to remember. Singing is better than talking – it helps me to express myself.”
Annie also knows that the singing group helps carers. “They have to put up with a lot. All our memories are helped by music whether we have dementia or are carers. Singing for the Brain gives us all a chance to ‘sing out loud’ and shows that all our brains are still working.
“When we sing, we share all our music together. It is our type of music and it brings back so many memories.
“Nothing else compares to music.”