Keeping Music Alive

Dec 31, 2016

"Hello Katherine, How was the music program?"  The question had become a bit rhetorical I felt because the answer was almost always the same positive response each time I asked.  But this time Katherine, who had been with us for more than 15 years and always saw the glass half full, took me by surprise.  "Terrible!" she said.  "I think that woman was tone deaf.  She couldn't hit a single note on key.  Please don't ask her to come back.  The cookies were good.  Have a wonderful day."  We book a lot of musical programs for our residents and, although there are some that stand out, it has always been a challenge finding better than average talent with the budget and facilities we have to work with.  Resident feedback helps us to determine who we should and shouldn't ask to come back and we usually find them to be overly forgiving and appreciative of even the weakest performances.  For this reason, I felt Katherine's response was actually quite refreshing as we can now reconsider the performer's fate for the future.

The fact is music plays a much larger role in our lives than we may give it credit for.  The explosion of iPods, MP3's, music apps and satellite radio are a testament to this.  Technological growth over the past 20 years has make access to digital music libraries relatively easy and inexpensive for younger generations.  But what about the older population who's ability to tap into the music of their formative years has been compromised by the technology gap?  While difficult for many of us to imagine now, we may need help from younger generations in the future to access the same music we enjoy today if a similar shift in technology occurs.

It has been found recently that the benefits of music for older adults may extend well beyond just personal enjoyment.  Studies have concluded that music can be used as an intervention to reduce stress and agitated behavior in individuals with dementia and can restore cognitive and emotional functions.  The idea that music can improve an individual's quality of life and relationships with others is quite appealing as these have been identified by families and professionals as the most challenging issues to address with dementia cases.  Furthermore, from a medical standpoint, music therapy may be more effective than pharmaceuticals and may be easier for both licensed and non licensed caregivers to apply.  Dan Cohen, founder of the non-profit organization Music & Memory noted that if music therapy were a drug it would quickly become a multi-million dollar blockbuster.  For more information on Music & Memory and how it is being used for long term care, visit