As a volunteer every Thursday at Glendale Gardens Nursing Home in Springfield, Missouri, it has been a profound experience to witness residents’ reactions when hearing their favorite music performed by local groups; a display of such dramatic responses that this writer always finds herself gravitating to the front of the room in search of a discreet space that allows a view of their sweet old faces. Some immediately respond by singing the words they have committed to memory, while others simply recline in peaceful postures allowing the music to sweep over their countenance.
Then, when a tune is sung that is an old time favorite, surprisingly, these elderly individuals that are always in possession of their composure suddenly break forth into behavior that creates quite a stir; so much that visiting family members will stare at their loved one wearing shocked expressions that are quickly replaced by amusement. As they whisper to one another, comments like, “Look at mom! Who would have thought she would ever react that way?” Others have thanked the Activity Director for bringing “mom” back to them.
Thus, having experienced these fascinating reactions repeatedly, the writer found herself exploring the research behind music and the brain through books and on line. Given the fact that researchers have been motivated to explore the reasons for the wide array of reactions by elderly individuals when hearing music played, reading their results has been truly fascinating and enlightening. Regardless of the change in the level of mental acuity brought on by the aging process, it was determined that listening to music almost always stimulated a reaction; results that motivated the writer to explore various methods of more deeply engaging the elderly audience.
Therefore, rather than approach it from the point of view of music therapy, the Glendale Gardens Activity Directors, Tim Trafford, Melody Childers and the writer chose to try a variety of techniques (large group, individualized, nursing home choir, wheelchair dancing) to engage the residents more deeply when performers arrived at the facility.
Folks, although we strongly suspected the responses from residents would be strong, we were unprepared for the level of impact witnessed in all individuals; including those experiencing low levels of mental acuity.
Therefore, it is our hope that, as a staff member serving the elderly, or a family member whose loved one needs assistance with daily care, you will benefit from this collection. Included are not only descriptions regarding each topic, but also accompanying photographs and videos that will cause your heart to sing as you witness the joyful faces of those involved.
Last, if you are in the process of searching for a facility for your loved one, then this writer implores you to center on chapter 2 regarding staffing a facility, followed by an incredible 30-minute video that will serve as a guide on your journey.