Music therapy is becoming more and more popular in senior living facilities and for good reason.
When you think of music, what do you think about? Fun? Dancing? Beauty? Memories? Life?
When it comes to senior living, music has the ability to offer amazing benefits. Music is a part of human DNA. It has the ability to unite in a unique way. It has the ability to bring back memories, to bring joy, to lift the spirit.
Music has can profoundly effect listeners. In fact, it has been an important part of every human culture throughout time. As scientists study the affects of music on the brain, there is no question that it has the ability to impact us in positive ways.
Music Therapy in Montreal
Take a look at how music is impacting the seniors at this Long Term Care facility in Montreal, CA.
Once a week, 21 year old Ariana Youdim performs to her regular audience. Her classical guitar melodies get the feet tapping and the hands moving.
“I can see from their faces that they really enjoy that we are here,” says Youdim, “and I can see they like what we play.”
No doubt the sweet sounds are appreciated here, but in this room, it’s more than that. It’s the sound of healing.
“I enjoy them all,” says Resident Linda Finkelstein. “I don’t have the ability to see them all the time, but when I do see them, my glory is up there.”
For close to two years, this group of college students has been providing a form of music therapy at the Jewish Eldercare Centre. The average of residents here is 85, and most suffer from a form of dementia.
Studies have shown music evokes emotion that brings memory.
“Music is very therapeutic in the sense that it can transport us back in time,” says Lisa Patterson of the Jewish Eldercare Centre, “maybe to a happier time in our lives.”
Besides performing, students also spend some quality one on one time with the residents.
“Sometimes they haven’t smiled in a week. Sometimes they haven’t smiled in a month,” says music student Lauren Lapierre, “but sometimes it takes that little effort – that little extra mile to get them there. To get them happy.”
“It’s really what matters in the end. The audience seems to be enjoying it, and I hope we are able to bring some happiness,” says Delia Espanyol, a music student.
Most of the seniors here have a difficult time expressing themselves, but on rare occassions, there is a moment like this one (woman smiling).
“I would love to come back. Not just like, I would LOVE to.”
And that, students will tell you, makes it all worth it.
The Benefits of Music Therapy
Research in music therapy shows clinical and evidence-based effectiveness for promoting wellness, managing stress, alleviating pain, enhancing memory, improving communication, and providing unique opportunities for interaction.
It can also facilitate movement and overall physical rehabilitation, increase motivation to engage in treatment, provide emotional support for seniors and their families, and create an outlet for expression of feelings.
Here are a few other benefits of music therapy for seniors:
- Reduces depression among older adults
- Can enhance social and emotional skills
- Assist in recall and language skills
- Decrease problem behaviors
- Can help assess cognitive ability in people with Alzheimer’s disease
- Can decrease the frequency of agitated and aggressive behaviors
- Can help individuals even in late stages of dementia
If you are in the process of finding a senior home for a loved one, be sure to ask if music therapy is part of the programming, especially if your loved one shows signs of dementia.
As your loved one finds themselves living in a new home, the benefits of music therapy can do a world of good.