Philadelphia Inquirer: When words fail, some turn to song

December 14, 2015

Last week Arthur Kuck celebrated a birthday. His daughter brought ribs and cake, and trimmed his fluffy white hair. His friends sang “Happy Birthday” and gave him a round of applause. His wife squeezed his hand and said proudly, “Ninety-one.”

Now, Kuck couldn’t tell you about any of that. Advancing dementia has curtailed both his short-term memory and his ability to communicate.

But when he sits around the piano at Spring Mill Presbyterian Village, a senior living center in Lafayette Hill, surrounded by fellow choir members and heeding the cues of their 17-year-old conductor, Kuck’s muscle memory takes over. Out of his mouth tumble lyrics learned years ago, and notes honed over decades singing for his church in Elmer, N.J.

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