Music Programs for Seniors

John Carpenter, the founder of the world-renowned Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York, has shown that listening to live music and being involved in live music-making experiences empowers people to emerge from the isolation imposed by Alzheimer’s disease. People are less depressed, and less likely to need anti-psychotic medications for their symptoms. This hub of articles will take you through some innovative music programs for seniors you may want to consider for your program.


The Power of Music and Memory

An older woman's hands playing the piano
Victor Cardoner / Getty Images

For every Baby Boomer who knows what comes next after, “Here we come, walkin’ down the street…” there is a member of the World War II generation to whom, “I’ll Be Seeing You” reminds them of empty days and nights waiting for a loved one. The power of music and what it does to bring back memories is undeniable. Let’s look at some of the science and the implication for activity directors.


How Customized Playlists on IPods Are Revolutionizing Activities

Music and memory are improving the quality of life of the elderly and ill through iPod based personalized music.


Volunteer Bands

Community bands perform for seniors are retirement and long-term care facilities across the United States. How can you bring them into your activities? Find out here.


Music for the Dying

Activity professionals working in care facilities are often faced with assisting a resident, and with them their friends and families, through a final journey. Hearing is the last sense we lose as our bodies shut down. So therapeutic music is a very important program to offer residents.


Compassionate Conversations

You heard it from your mom and as usual, your mom was right — words do matter. A recent study in England found that ‘compassionate conversation’ that is staff spending time sitting and engaging in friendly conversation with residents improved residents’ quality of life.


Whistle While You Work

“Whistle while you work…” for most people these words come from a popular Walt Disney movie, but for Robert Stemmons, a professional whistler performing at retirement communities assisted living facilities and nursing homes the lyrics describe his life.

He caught the whistling bug at age five growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, but it was listening to legendary whistler Fred Lowery who performed at his school in 1969 when he was 13 that really changed his life. Lowery, who himself twice performed at Carnegie Hall, showed Stemmons that whistling was a performing art.


Silver Song Club

Did you know that when you sing in your car, the shower or the Sunday church choir you are harkening back to the earliest humans? There are some archeologists who believe we hummed and sang before developing speech. Singing, thus, is in our blood. Science has shown how music can improve our mood and reduce pain. Silver Song Club, a program created in the United Kingdom, is proving how singing improves seniors’ lives.


The Power of Religious Music

An Oxford University study published in The Gerontologist has linked listening to religious music to better mental health.

Several aspects of religion — including service attendance, prayer, meditation, religious coping strategies, congregational support systems, and relations with God, among others — have been linked with positive mental health outcomes among older U.S. adults. This study examines a neglected dimension.

1,024 older adults were examined.

Findings suggest that the frequency of listening to religious music is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and increases in life satisfaction, self-esteem, and a sense of control. In addition, the frequency of listening to gospel music (a specific type of religious music) is associated with a decrease in death anxiety and an increase in a sense of control. These associations are similar for blacks and whites, women and men, and low- and high-socioeconomic status individuals.

Music Is the Answer

More and more researchers are finding that music is the one thing that can cut through the tangles and plaques of Alzheimer's and awaken something in them. I see it all the time in my performances.

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