The Lasting Power of Songs From the Golden Age of Musicals

When it was released in 1927, The Jazz Singer was the first feature-length motion picture with a recorded music score. The movie marked the end of the silent film era, and for the next 20 years, musicals ruled the silver screen.

Movies released during the so-called “Golden Age” include Singin’ in the Rain, The Wizard of Oz and Yankee Doodle Dandy. The films’ songs and dances were a refreshing escape for post-Depression moviegoers and thus resulted in big profits for the movie industry.

But by the end of the 1950s, things changed.

The cost of making a musical—the Technicolor™ film, the costumes and sets—became too much for the movie studios. Plus, audiences’ tastes were also evolving. Around this time, a group from Liverpool called The Beatles (you may have heard of them) brought in a new wave of musical and lyrical experimentation that forever changed pop culture.

Televisions also became more affordable and ubiquitous during this time. Between 1946 and 1951, the number of televisions in use skyrocketed from 6,000 to more than 12 million, according to New York University. Suddenly, a trip to the movie theater wasn’t the only option for entertainment and diversion.

But while the Golden Age of musicals is over, the songs live on. And for many people with Alzheimer’s, these songs provide a critical connection between the past and present.

The Powerful Connection Between Music and Alzheimer’s

Music is a powerful form of therapy for people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Multiple studies, ranging from a 1993 report in the Perceptual and Motor Skills journal to a 2014 study in The Gerontologist, have shown that music can help reduce the severity of age-related declines in cognition and memory.

While scientists are still working to explain the exact connection between music, memory and Alzheimer’s, the leading theory suggests that music memory works differently from other forms of memory.

Petr Janata, a professor of psychology at the Center for Mind and Brain at the University of California, suggests that we encode music more richly. Other memories such as visual images and smells are tied to the musical memories. That’s why people with dementia are able to recall songs from their youth, even when other parts of their brain have been damaged by the condition. It’s also why people who have suffered severe brain injuries are often unable to recall their past, but can sing the lyrics to classics like the Star-Spangled Banner or Somewhere Over the Rainbow.

The Golden Age of Music and Memory

For people living with Alzheimer’s, it’s songs from Golden Age hits like the Wizard of Oz and The Sound of Music specifically that seem to have the most impact on their mental and emotional well-being.

A recent article in The Guardian quoted the work of researchers who led a four-month musical therapy program in a U.S. memory care community. When people with Alzheimer’s participated in regular singing sessions that featured songs like My Favorite Things and Follow the Yellow Brick Road, they scored higher on cognitive and drawing tests. They also reported being happier and more satisfied with life at the end of the program.

Another study conducted by researchers at Helsinki University showed listening to music helped improve the mood and orientation skills of people living with Alzheimer’s. After a 10-week singing course, the participants increased their scores on several memory, cognition and attention tests. While in Britain, the U.K. Alzheimer’s Society holds regular group singing sessions to help improve the lives of citizens with dementia and impaired cognitive abilities.

Musical Therapy for People With Alzheimer’s in Florida

Memory care communities in Florida offer musical intervention programs to help residents with Alzheimer’s enjoy a higher quality of life.

At Sonata Senior Living, our Duets program draws from the latest research on music and Alzheimer’s to help promote cognitive rehabilitation, reduce anxiety and improve the overall well-being of our residents living with dementia.

To learn how music in memory care can make a difference for your loved one, call a Serenades Memory Care community near you today or schedule a visit →

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Understanding the Health Effects of Loneliness: Take the Quiz

In Florida, more than 1.2 million seniors live by themselves, according to the State of Florida Department of Elder Affairs. While some of these Florida seniors have a robust social and family life, many don’t.

Around the state — and even the world — researchers are seeing an increased correlation between getting older and experiencing symptoms of loneliness and social isolation. In France and the United Kingdom, researchers have launched campaigns to raise awareness of this growing trend, while U.S. scientists are diving into the research to see exactly how loneliness affects older adults’ physical and mental health.

Is Your Loved One at Risk of Becoming Socially Isolated?

A Journal of Primary Prevention review of articles published in medical outlets like PsycINFO and Medline shows an alarming amount of evidence that seniors living alone are at an increased risk of developing many chronic diseases and illnesses.

Studies by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institute on Aging show that social isolation and loneliness can increase one’s chances of developing mental and physical issues including heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity. Loneliness has also been tied to an increased risk of anxiety, depression, cognitive decline and even Alzheimer’s disease.

The Cacioppo Evolutionary Theory of Loneliness, a novel study into how social interaction affects our health, suggests that the behavioral and biological consequences of loneliness increase the risk of death in people of all ages.

The Biological Impact of Loneliness

Part of the reason loneliness affects our health is because it changes our perception of the world, says Steve Cole, Ph.D., director of the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Cole’s research suggests that chronic loneliness puts our body on the defensive at a biological level. We’re more likely to feel threatened and distrustful of those around us.

This may promote inflammation, which, over an extended period of time, can increase our risk of developing a chronic disease. Loneliness may also weaken our immune systems, putting us at increased risk of getting sick.

Quiz: Is Your Loved One Lonely?

If your parent or another loved one over the age of 70 lives alone, take this short quiz to better understand their risk of becoming socially isolated.

  1. Does your parent belong to a house of worship?
  2. Does your parent belong to a social club or senior center?
  3. Does your parent have friends they speak to regularly?
  4. Does your parent drive?
  5. Does your parent exercise?
  6. Does your parent volunteer for a school, charity or other organization?
  7. Does your parent engage in hobbies that interest them such as crafts or woodworking?
  8. Can your parent walk up and down stairs without assistance?
  9. Has your parent made plans to see friends in the past three months?
  10. Do you visit your parent at least once a week?

If you answered “no” to five or more questions, your parent may be more susceptible to feelings of loneliness and associated chronic health issues.

Fixing the Problem

In the past, many seniors moved in with their children or grandchildren as their health and mobility declined. But the reduction in multi-generational households means more and more seniors are living alone.

That’s why many older adults and their loved ones embrace the idea of making new friends and building camaraderie at a senior living community. Assisted living and independent living communities with robust social and activity calendars offer what Dr. Cole from UCLA’s Social Genomics Core Laboratory says is the secret to reducing feelings of loneliness: a sense of purpose.

His research has shown that helping others, volunteering and feeling like one’s life has meaning helps us feel more connected and leads to a healthier immune system.

An article in Psychology Today by Angela K. Troyer, Ph.D., C.Psych., goes on to list the many health benefits of an active social life, including:

  • A longer lifespan, regardless of one’s current health
  • Stronger immune system, especially in seniors
  • Decreased symptoms of depression and improved overall mental well-being
  • Lower risk of dementia

At Sonata Senior Living, our Florida communities offer residents a variety of lifestyle choices, including independent living, assisted living and memory care. All of our communities have robust social and activity calendars, encouraging our residents to make new friends, build stronger connections and feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.

For more information, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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A Practical Guide For Managing Alzheimer’s and Dementia Behaviors

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Is Depression a Risk Factor for Dementia?

In addition to memory loss and changes in behavior, depression is a common experience for people living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. One 2016 study by Lara et al. suggested that as many as half of those diagnosed with symptoms of cognitive decline will experience at least one depressive episode during their treatment.

But when it comes to depression and dementia, providing the right care at the right time isn’t always easy. The symptoms of the two conditions are strikingly similar. And some studies suggest that people who suffer from depression may be at an increased risk of experiencing cognitive decline later in life.

Here’s what we know — and don’t know — about the link between depression and dementia.

Dementia and Depression: Understanding the Similarities

Depression is a serious medical condition that affects more than 300 million people worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. Also called major depressive disorder, people with depression may experience a range of mental health symptoms, including intense sadness, loss of interest in once-pleasurable activities, and changes in eating and sleeping patterns.

Dementia, on the other hand, is a medical term used to describe a series of cognitive symptoms that affect one’s daily life. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, these symptoms may include memory problems and changes in personality and critical thinking skills.

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia. There are more than 540,000 people living with Alzheimer’s in Florida alone.

The Connection Between Depression and Dementia

In addition to memory and behavioral changes, people living with dementia may also experience the classic symptoms of depression, including unexplainable sadness, fatigue and sleeping issues.

There are also similarities at the biological level, according to Psychology Today. In blood tests, people with dementia and depression both tested high for the stress hormone cortisol.

There’s such an intense overlap between the two conditions, researchers at the University of Wyoming say it can be difficult to tell the two apart, even in a clinical setting.

Does Depression Cause Dementia?

There is an increased interest in finding out whether depression is not just a symptom of dementia, but also a risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Several recent studies have shown that a history of depression may increase one’s chances of experiencing cognitive decline later in life.

  • In 2015, researchers in India found that people who suffer from depression experienced symptoms of cognitive decline 2.5 years earlier than those who did not.
  • Another study, by Barnes et al., suggested that people who experience depression later in life were twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. While people who experienced depression in mid and late life had more than a three-fold increased risk of developing vascular dementia, cognitive decline caused by cerebrovascular disease.
  • Finally, an article in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease concluded that late-life depression is a “strong risk factor” for experiencing symptoms of cognitive impairment.

The connection between dementia and depression is so strong, The American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry is calling for further research into whether treating symptoms of apathy and depression early in life will help reduce one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Another study, published in the Handbook on the Neuropsychology of Aging and Dementia, suggested that depression may be an early symptom of dementia.

Using What We Know to Help People Living With Dementia

As the medical community continues to determine the exact link between depression and dementia, memory care communities are developing programs to help their residents enjoy the highest quality of life possible. That means training their caregivers to recognize the symptoms of depression, delivering the proper care to residents, and creating activities and routines that help residents feel engaged and connected.

To learn more about Sonata Senior Living’s person-directed approach to memory care, call a community near you today to schedule a visit →

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How Pets Help Older Adults Who Live Alone

For many seniors who live alone, loneliness is a serious issue that affects their physical and mental well-being. According to the National Institute on Aging, feeling lonely and socially isolated can lead to a host of health issues, including depression, dementia and heart disease.

The McMaster Optimal Aging Portal says feeling like we’re alone in the world can be as detrimental to our health as smoking, obesity or lack of exercise. Over time, loneliness can even increase one’s risk of early death.

Fortunately, there are ways to reduce the impact of loneliness in older adults. Recommendations from the National Institute on Aging include staying in touch with friends and family — whether it’s in person, on the phone or via the internet — getting regular exercise and volunteering.

But perhaps their most exciting tip for overcoming feelings of isolation — especially if you love animals — is to adopt a pet.

A Sense of Purrr-pose

Researchers at the Social Genomics Core Laboratory at the University of California, Los Angeles, have identified what they call the cure to loneliness: having a sense of purpose.

Adopting a pet gives you just that. Pets need to be fed and provided fresh water. Cats need clean litter pans and dogs need daily walks. Then there are “chores” like cuddling, socializing and telling your pet how cute they are.

In a recent University of Michigan National Poll on Healthy Aging, nearly three-quarters of adults age 50 to 80 said owning a pet gave them a sense of purpose. Almost all respondents said their pets made them feel loved and increased their quality of life. Eighty percent said their furry friends reduced their overall stress levels.

Owning a pet can also lower our blood pressure, increase our activity levels and improve the well-being of people suffering from chronic diseases, according to the Current Gerontology and Geriatrics Research journal. TIME magazine says pets can also help ease symptoms of depression and anxiety.

“Pet ownership for older people can be very beneficial by giving them something to love and care for, as well as a companion in the home, especially if they live alone,” Dr. Sonny Presnal, director of the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, told Modern Dog magazine.

Pet Ownership and Adoption Tips for Older Adults

When adopting a pet, it’s important to find a companion who is a good match for your needs and situation.

A big dog who loves to run and play may not be the best fit for people with decreased mobility and range of motion. Kittens and puppies are adorable, but they also require 24/7 attention.

One of the best ways to make a new friend, and potentially save a life, is to adopt an older cat or dog from a local shelter, recommends Modern Dog.

Older pets don’t require the constant training and attention of their younger counterparts. And, like humans, they’re often a bit more set in their ways. If an older pet is sweet and loving at the shelter, chances are they’ll be just as sweet and loving once they get settled in your home.

Some shelters also offer programs to encourage the adoption of older pets. For example, the Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando’s Seniors for Seniors program waives the adoption fee for adults older than 60 who adopt a pet 6 years of age or older.

If you’re concerned that your mobility or driving situation may prevent you from having a pet, rest assured that there are likely plenty of mobile grooming and veterinary care providers in your area.

One more tip: If you live in an apartment or senior living community, it’s important to see if there are any rules regarding the size or breed of pets allowed before heading to the shelter.

Sonata Senior Living loves pets! To learn more about our pet policy, call a community near you today or schedule a visit →

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Sonata Senior Living Plans $52 Million Community in Lake Mary

Sonata Senior Living Plans $52 Million Community in Lake Mary

ORLANDO, FL—Sept. 12, 2019—Sonata Senior Living has announced plans to develop Sonata Lake Mary, a $52 million resort-style community in Lake Mary, Florida. Located on a seven-acre site within the Lake Mary Wellness and Technology Park mixed-use development near Primera Blvd. and Reinhart Rd., the property will feature 88 independent living, 92 assisted living and 13 memory care apartments.

Sonata Lake Mary is expected to break ground in early 2020, making it the 12th community for Orlando-based Sonata Senior Living, a privately held senior housing developer and operator.

Sonata Lake Mary will offer a convenient rental contract and continuum of care for aging in place. The four-story building will incorporate the latest design and technology innovations with spacious apartments and upscale amenities along with the exceptional service and care that is a Sonata Senior Living trademark.

“Hospitality is at the center of all Sonata Senior Living Communities,” said Shelley Esden, COO of Sonata Senior Living. “Sonata Lake Mary will build on this philosophy and align with the modern-day expectations of seniors who desire more choices.”

The community will feature multiple dining venues; a full-service and juice bar; fitness center and spa; bocce ball court; putting green; theater; pool; and dog park, among other amenities. Innovations such as a simulated golf center will cater to the active senior lifestyle.

The location of Sonata Lake Mary within the 153-acre, estimated $750 million Lake Mary Wellness and Technology Park will ideally place the community in close proximity to a hospital, urgent care facility and medical pavilion.

According to Richard Toomey of LMLD, LLC, and master developer of the Lake Mary Wellness and Technology Park, Orlando Health plans to start construction of the $470 million, 240-bed hospital in 2020 as well as planning for another 84,000-square-feet of medical office space within walking distance to Sonata Lake Mary.

President Jim Heistand of LMLD’s parent company, Parkway Property Investments, LLC, stated, “Richard has assembled a fantastic group of businesses for the Lake Mary Wellness and Technology Park and senior housing is an essential component of our plan to create a sustainable live, work and medical wellness town center.”

“We are building a community within a community and our presence in the park squarely places the emphasis on wellness in senior living, which is something we are passionate about,” said Esden. “The location in the Lake Mary Wellness and Technology Park will provide our residents convenient access to world-class medical facilities in addition to our own signature care.”

The 250,000-square-foot senior living community will create approximately 200 jobs during construction and 85 permanent jobs in Lake Mary upon opening in 2021.

About Sonata Senior Living

Sonata Senior Living is a licensed owner, developer and operator of independent living, assisted living and memory care communities located exclusively in Florida. Recognized by Argentum as a Best of the Best Award recipient, Sonata Senior Living is committed to enriching the lives of older adults through constant innovation, programming and services that recognize individuality and personal choice. Partners include the Florida Senior Living Association, the Alzheimer’s Association, Teepa Snow’s Positive Approach™ to Care and Argentum. For more information visit or call Shelley Esden at 407-286-6490.

To learn more about Sonata Senior Living’s independent living, assisted living and memory care communities, schedule a visit →

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A Florida Recipe for Healthy Aging

Florida is one of the country’s top producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. The state’s warm climate and fertile soil provide the ideal growing conditions for a wide variety of crops, from watermelons to peppers and everything in between.

The abundance of just-off-the-vine produce makes it easy for seniors living in Florida to enjoy all the health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

Keep reading to learn how eating Florida produce can help you enjoy a more active lifestyle. Plus, get tips on how to find the freshest, most in-season fruits and vegetables in your area.

Healthier Eating = Healthier Aging

In 2012, scientists in Germany conducted a comprehensive analysis of all the available research into diet and disease. They found that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables was linked with a reduced risk of developing many chronic diseases, including:

  • Type 2 diabetes. Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories. The German scientists theorized that eating more produce may help prevent individuals from becoming overweight, the most important risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Dementia. While more research needs to be done, the analysis quoted several promising studies from Spain, Korea and France that suggested eating more fruits and vegetables may reduce one’s risk of developing dementia. The antioxidants found in many fruits have also been linked to increased blood flow in the brain.
  • Cancer, including cancer of the esophagus and colon. Vegetables and fruits may also provide a protective effect against cancers of the oral cavity, stomach and kidneys.
  • Macular degeneration. The vitamins and fiber provided by fruits and vegetables may help prevent eye conditions like macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). While smoking is the leading cause of COPD, a diet rich in fruits and vegetables may also help reduce one’s risk.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. The German team also tied a diet rich in fruits and vegetables to a decreased risk of developing osteoporosis, arthritis and digestive issues like chronic inflammatory bowel diseases, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis.
Their analysis also showed convincing evidence that the more produce one ate, the less likely he or she was to suffer from hypertension or experience symptoms of a stroke.

Exactly how many vegetables do you need to eat to enjoy these healthy aging benefits?

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends women age 51 and older eat 2 cups per day. Men of the same age should eat 2.5 cups.
You can enjoy your vegetables raw, cooked, fresh, frozen or mashed. A juice made from 100% vegetables can also pack a healthy aging punch, said the USDA.

Orange You Glad You Live in Florida?

In addition to produce like avocados and spinach, Florida is also the country’s top producer of oranges. For centuries, this important crop has helped the state’s residents and visitors enjoy a healthier, more active lifestyle.

In the days of the explorers, sailors brought citrus fruit like oranges on long ship voyages to prevent outbreaks of scurvy onboard. Today, scientists have linked the phytochemicals in oranges with health benefits including a reduced risk of developing chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

According to the BBC’s Good Food blog, oranges also provide anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial benefits and are a good source of A and B vitamins, fiber, and calcium.

Healthy Aging in Florida: How to Get the Most out of the State’s Fresh Produce

Each month, the Florida Department of Agriculture publishes a list of in-season fruits and vegetables. Many of these are available for purchase in the state’s grocery stores. Or, for a fun outing, consider buying them straight from the source.

On the Farmers Market Directory, a list maintained by the Agricultural Marketing Service, you can find information about farmers markets in your area, including available produce, opening times and accepted forms of payments.

To learn more about how Sonata Senior Living’s communities integrate fresh Florida produce into their daily menus, contact us today →

To learn more about how Sonata Senior Living’s communities integrate fresh Florida produce into their daily menus, contact us today →

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Everything You Need to Know About Florida Assisted Living Licenses

There comes a point in everyone’s life when they need an extra hand — or two.

Perhaps a chronic condition is making it harder to go about their daily activities. Or maybe it feels like they don’t have the energy to prepare their favorite meals or keep up with their personal care routines. Or, they’ve recently lost a spouse.

When your loved one needs a little extra support, but would still like to maintain an active lifestyle, it may be time to consider an assisted living community.

Assisted living communities can provide as much or as little assistance as needed. Services are designed to help residents feel empowered and independent while providing the level of care they need to achieve their daily goals.

In Florida, there are a wealth of assisted living communities to choose from, depending on one’s budget, preferences and healthcare needs.

Qualifying for Assisted Living in Florida

In order to move into a Florida assisted living community, one must meet specific requirements, as defined by state law.

The Florida Department of Elder Affairs says these requirements can vary from community to community. But in general, residents must demonstrate that they need help with at least two of the tasks listed in the Barthel Index of Activities of Daily Living (ADL).

These daily tasks include:

  • Preparing meals
  • Taking medications
  • Managing personal care and hygiene

Depending on your loved one’s needs, they may also benefit from living in a community that is licensed to provide a higher level of daily care and assistance.

Understanding Florida Assisted Living Regulations and Licensing

Unlike skilled nursing facilities, which provide 24/7 medical care and are heavily regulated by the federal government, assisted living communities are regulated at the state level.

In Florida, all assisted living communities with a standard license are required to provide residents with personal care and assistance. The Florida Agency for Health Care Administration says these communities must also provide residents with social and leisure activities and assist with daily tasks like making appointments and arranging transportation.

As of March 2018, all Florida assisted living communities are also required to have a detailed plan in place for keeping residents safe and comfortable in the event of a power outage.

In addition to the standard license, The National Center of Assisted Living says Florida assisted living communities may also qualify for additional licenses, as defined by the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

These additional licenses include:

  • Limited Nursing Services (LNS) — These communities are licensed to provide medical services required by your loved one’s doctor, including catheter assistance, wound care and urine analysis.
  • Extended Congregate Care (ECC) — These communities can provide advanced medical care and assistance for residents with diabetes, fractures and stomas.
  • Limited Mental Health (LMH) — Florida assisted living communities with this license can care for residents who have a mental condition and receive Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

Which Florida Assisted Living Community Is Best for Your Loved One?

Your loved one’s doctor and medical team can help you determine which type of community is best for their needs. When weighing your options, consider how your loved one’s health may change in the immediate future.

If your loved one qualifies for an assisted living now, but their condition may require additional care in the next year or so, it is wise to consider a community with a limited nursing services (LNS) license.

Assisted living communities with an LNS license can provide the daily assistance your loved one needs both now and in the years to come. They may also provide access to ancillary services like physical, occupational and speech therapies, pharmacy and hospice services, which are provided under physician orders.

To find the best assisted living community and level of care for your loved one, check out, a search tool maintained by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

If you’d like to learn more about Sonata’s assisted living and memory care communities in Florida, contact us today →

If you’d like to learn more about Sonata’s assisted living and memory care communities in Florida, contact us today →

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Understanding the Link Between Mozart, Music and Memory

At age 5, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his first composition. The next year, he became a professional performer, touring the concert halls of Paris, London and Zurich.

The child prodigy would go on to write some of the most influential pieces of classical music in history before his untimely death at age 35, according to

While Mozart may be most famous for works like The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, the composer also made a major contribution to the way memory care communities help residents with Alzheimer’s enjoy a higher quality of life.

It’s called the “Mozart effect.”

Music and Memory: Understanding the “Mozart Effect”

The “Mozart effect” is the nickname scientists use to describe the way the brain changes after listening to the composer’s symphonies and sonatas.

A study published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine by J.S. Jenkins, MD FRCP,  showed that people experienced improved spatial reasoning skills after listening to Mozart for just 10 minutes.

Listening to Mozart has also been shown to activate parts of the brain that have been linked to memory and problem-solving, according to a study published in Consciousness and Cognition. In contrast, researchers said listening to Beethoven did not have the same effect.

Diving deeper into the research, the study titled The Mozart Effect: A Quantitative EEG Study, showed that listening to Mozart may increase activity in the alpha band, which is linked to memory, cognition and problem-solving.

Using Music to Power Alzheimer’s Treatment

In Florida, a select group of memory care communities are using music therapy to help residents living with Alzheimer’s. While the Mozart effect and related research drives many of these programs, classical music isn’t the only genre that has the power to heal.

A report published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association showed that a structured program of listening to any familiar song can improve the way the brain functions.

The effects of musical therapy are so powerful, the treatment may even help delay further damage to the brain’s cognitive functions, said researchers behind a 2013 study called The Impact of Group Music Therapy on Depression and Cognition in Elderly Persons With Dementia: A Randomized Controlled Study.

Over time, a structured musical therapy treatment program could even help improve the cognitive function of people living with Alzheimer’s, according to a paper published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment.

In addition to changing — and possibly enhancing —  how the brain works, music interventions have also been shown to reduce anxiety in people living with Alzheimer’s. It can also help ease many of the distressing behaviors associated with the disease.

At Sonata Senior Living, our memory care communities draw from the latest research behind music and Alzheimer’s to help our residents enjoy a higher quality of life. To learn more about this special programming, call a community near you to schedule a visit →

At Sonata Senior Living, we’re always tracking the latest developments in music and Alzheimer’s research. To learn more about our innovative programs, schedule a visit →

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Music as Medicine for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Music has the power to lift our moods and transport us to another time and place. It can reduce stress, ease anxiety and even improve our cognitive function.

That’s why several forward-thinking assisted living memory care communities in Florida are using music as a form of medicine for their residents.

Music as Medicine for People Living With Alzheimer’s

Musical therapy has multiple benefits for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

#1 – Reduces Negative Symptoms

Music reduces the negative symptoms associated with dementia.

In a Translational Neurodegeneration analysis of five years’ worth of studies reviewing the connection between music and Alzheimer’s and dementia, researchers found the following trends:

  • Music was repeatedly shown to improve moods, decrease anxiety and agitation, and even help people with Alzheimer’s sleep better at night. One study by Gómez Gallego M, et al., showed that music therapy could also help reduce hallucinations and symptoms of delirium.
  • The right song played at the right time can also serve as a distraction, helping reduce anxiety by redirecting someone’s attention away from stressful triggers.

#2 – Improves Memory & Cognitive Function

Music therapy can improve our memory and cognitive function.

Another study, published in Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders, showed that people who listened to Vivaldi’s “Spring” from “The Four Seasons” as background music during an autobiographical test experienced stronger recall. Other studies published in the Translational Neurodegeneration medical journal have shown singing along with a favorite tune can improve results on cognition tests. Frontiers in Neuroscience has also linked playing an instrument with improvements in memory, orientation and language skills.

#3 – Music is Non-Invasive

Music therapy is a low-cost, non-pharmacological form of treatment.

Music therapy uses songs and instruments, instead of drugs and needles, to help people with Alzheimer’s and dementia reduce unpleasant symptoms and cognitive decline.

The Types of Music Therapy for Alzheimer’s

Assisted living memory care communities in Florida are using innovative music interventions to help improve the quality of life for their residents living with Alzheimer’s, including:

  • Receptive Music Therapy — This passive approach to musical therapy allows the resident to simply enjoy their favorite songs. They don’t have to sing along (unless they want to) or accompany the song on a drum or recorder.
  • Interactive Music Therapy — This is a more active form of music therapy. As the song is playing, the therapist will encourage the person to sing along or keep the beat on a tambourine.

Until recently, scientists agreed that music therapy was an effective way of relieving agitation among people living with Alzheimer’s and dementia, though little research had been done to compare the effectiveness of the different types of treatment.

But a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association revealed new insight for assisted living memory care communities in Florida.

When comparing interactive and receptive musical therapy techniques, researchers were able to link receptive music therapy, the more passive approach, with an overall higher quality of life for people living with Alzheimer’s.

Receptive music therapy appears to be more effective at easing agitation and anxiety and reducing behavioral problems than interactive music therapy.

At Sonata Senior Living, we’re always tracking the latest developments in music and Alzheimer’s research. To learn more about our innovative programs, schedule a visit →

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Can You Afford Assisted Living?

For many Americans, cost is a big factor when considering whether to move into an assisted living community. Many fear it’s too expensive. Others are unaware of their options for financing the monthly rent.

In Florida, the average monthly cost of assisted living is $3,500, according to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey, about $500 less than the national median cost of $4,000.

At first glance, that may seem like a high number. But when you consider that the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Florida is $773 and that assisted living fees also typically cover meals, utilities, maintenance, housekeeping and transportation — not to mention medical assistance, excursions and on-site activities — it can actually be an incredibly good value.

Then there are the emotional benefits of life at an assisted living community.

“The thing that is really most attractive to future residents is getting together with other residents, playing cards, having something to do each day and meeting new people,” said Gail G. Matillo, MPA, president and CEO of the Florida Senior Living Association. “Living alone can be very isolating.”

Financing Your Florida Assisted Living

When it comes to financing assisted living in Florida, you have options. Most seniors use a combination of personal savings and the following resources.

Home Equity

As long as house prices continue to rise, seniors’ home equity will rise, said Matillo. “That can be a huge help to those who want to move into assisted living,” she said.

Social Security

Many assisted living communities in Florida will accept your Social Security payments and apply them directly to your monthly rent, said Matillo. This saves a lot of hassle for residents by streamlining the payment process.


Many seniors are surprised to learn that Medicare does not cover the costs of assisted living, said Matillo.

But if you qualify for government assistance, Medicaid may cover some of your assisted living costs.

Most states use 1915c Medicaid HCBS (Home and Community Based Services) Waivers to cover the costs of assisted living, according to However, Florida has eliminated this program and now covers assisted living through the Statewide Medicaid Managed Care Long-Term Care option.

Unfortunately, not all Florida assisted living communities accept Medicaid, and the waiting list at those that do is often long, said Matillo. It’s also important to note that Medicaid may not cover all of your costs.

Family Support & Caregiver Tax Deductible

Many Florida assisted living communities allow family members to pay over the phone or internet via credit card for care and ancillary services like bathing or grooming, said Matillo. This helps to offset the cost of assisted living care.

Furthermore, if you are supplementing your loved one’s care, a caregiver may be able to deduct these expenses on their annual taxes.

Long-Term Care Insurance

This is a relatively new product that offers the best value for Floridians in their 40s and 50s, said Matillo. It may be too cost prohibitive for people in their 70s and 80s, she said.

It’s also worth noting that some long-term care applicants may be turned down due to pre-existing conditions, according to the AARP.

The Veterans Aid and Attendance Pension

Veterans and survivors who are eligible for a VA pension may also be eligible for this program, which increases one’s monthly payout to cover long-term care costs, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

This traditionally covers half the cost of the board and care, said Matillo.

Life Insurance

Some life insurance policies allow policy-holders to receive a tax-free advance on their death benefit, which can be used to fund assisted living costs, according to This could be a good option for seniors who don’t have children, said Matillo.

It’s best to start by understanding all of the different senior living options in Florida. Then see if assisted living is right for you.

Once you identify your needs, Matillo recommends working with an elder care attorney to determine what you can afford.

When comparing your options, she also suggested asking each community what’s included in the monthly rent, since amenities and meals are usually bundled into the cost.

The price of assisted living in Florida can vary from county to county, she said, with rural areas offering more affordable fees than urban city centers.

To learn more about Sonata Senior Living’s independent and assisted living communities, schedule a visit →

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