Music and singing are known to have exceptional benefits for people with dementia - even those who are no longer able to verbally communicate.

For Dementia Action Week, which began on May 21, Diana Greenman has shared her experience of music making a difference to people living with dementia.

Ms Greenman volunteers at Royal Star and Garter Homes, and leads the choir at the Surbiton home.

She said: "Music is the most emotive of the arts and has great therapeutic properties. Listening to a live performance or participating in singing can help reduce levels of pain, anxiety and depression as one’s focus is on making music rather than immediate worries and fears.

"Some people who are unable to communicate verbally find they can sing familiar tunes, word perfectly, which produces a wonderful sense of achievement.

"Music provides an effective outlet for expression and interaction, opening closed doors and releasing tension and frustration.

"I saw a great example of this while visiting a family friend, who was unable to communicate through the spoken word but sang with me word perfectly to ‘If You Were the Only Girl in the World’. This was so emotional I really had to fight back the tears. Perhaps we should start talking in song!"

Ms Greenman was involved with the charity Music in Hospitals and Care for 26 years, and began volunteering at Royal Star and Garter in April 2016, founding The Star and Garter Singers.

She said: "Many people with dementia never lose their sense of rhythm, melody and pitch. On many occasions, I have witnessed people whose dementia is advanced dancing in perfect time to a tune from distant memories.

"Confusing thoughts are put to one side during these magical moments of singing, dancing, foot tapping – just enjoying being part of something that is familiar and sharing it with one’s friends and loved ones. Music reaches inner depths no other activity ever penetrates.

"Participating in a musical activity can improve communication skills between residents and staff and reduce feelings of isolation. The Star & Garter Singers is a fine example, where everyone shares in music making."