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Singing Therapy Hits the Right Note

Clare Greenfield

Before I retired, I worked as a mental health nurse teacher with a special interest in older people. I taught in the classroom and in care settings.

Since retirement, I have been involved in research, as well as volunteering to support older people in all aspects of their wellbeing.

One person in every 500 will develop Parkinson’s – mostly those aged over 50. It is a disease of the nervous system that progressively affects muscular control, invariably to the detriment of verbal and non-verbal communication.

Speech becomes slurred, hoarse, without intonation and so soft as to be inaudible. Having a two-way conversation can be difficult, leaving the person feeling isolated, excluded from life, resulting in feelings of worthlessness, hopelessness and anxiety.

I recently became aware of singing therapy for people with Parkinson’s disease and was inspired to follow this up with a friend who had developed this condition.

In the past, my friend had been an enthusiastic choir member and I wondered if singing with her would help. So I thought I would give it a go and selected some songs on my iPod player.

When I arrived at her home, her speaking voice was inaudible and conversation was definitely not an option.

Together we started to sing along to the iPod. Initially, she sang very quietly, remembering many of the words. Her singing voice gradually became a little stronger and, after 20 minutes, we were able to have a conversation.

Her speaking voice was markedly stronger, and we were encouraged and amazed.  Even though her voice tailed off after about 10 minutes I had not expected such success.

This may not work for everyone, but it was a fun experience for both of us – even though I couldn’t reach all the higher notes!

It would be very interesting to hear from anyone with similar ’singing’ experiences. Comments will be passed on to the Parkinson’s Society by the Patient and Client Council and will add to a better understanding of the benefits of singing therapy.

For support and information about Parkinson’s disease, contact Parkinson’s NI on 028 9092 3370 or visit and

Have you had similar experiences with people who have difficulties with communicating? We’d be very interested in any creative methods you have used.

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Previous comments ...

Elizabeth Pilson 12-Mar-2017 at 15:59 hrs

Having been recently diagnosed with Parkinson's disease I was very interested in this article and no doubt be aware of this if affected in this way down the line.
Many thanks


David Spence 10-Mar-2017 at 16:06 hrs

Do you know about ParSoniK, the Parkinson's UK Northern Ireland Choir?

The choir meets every Saturday afternoon and, as an active member, I can testify to the beneficial effects of singing and vocal exercises on my voice, breathing and even posture. The social aspect of meeting fellow Parkinson's sufferers in a non-intimadating setting should not be underestimated either.