Music: Bridge to the Soul

blogpic_laurenFor me, music resonates with the seasons of my life, my personal experiences, people I know and my feelings. Music is a huge part of everyday living for me. Sometimes I like to play music as if it is the soundtrack to my life, kind of like Ellen DeGeneres in this video. As we age, music does not lose its power to activate our senses and help us reminisce. In fact, senior living communities have started developing music therapy programs to help engage seniors on a new level, and for seniors who suffer from dementia- related diseases, the effects have been amazing. Seniors who would otherwise sit stoically silent express positive energy, lit- up emotions and quality engagement when they listen to music that they enjoy. Music is rhythm for the soul.

With the recent release of Alive Inside, a documentary that explores the effects of music on seniors suffering from dementia, people are experiencing an awakening as they witness the positive effects of music therapy.  This documentary shows us that playing music that seniors enjoy and can reminisce with brings them back to their identities and makes them light up and express more energy.  When prompted by yes or no questions, those who would normally not respond will actually provide quality responses after listening to music they enjoy. Baptist Retirement Community in San Angelo has been implementing a music therapy program and is witnessing the same effects in their residents. Music resonates with seasons of our lives, experiences and moments in time and people who are special to us. When we hear certain songs or artists, the music helps us reminisce.  Music activates our senses and our emotions, which is why music is an excellent tool for therapy.

Bridget Hinrichs, life enrichment coordinator for Sagecrest at Baptist Retirement Community, says the music therapy program makes the residents more engaged, helps them feel good, is uplifting and can change their whole demeanor. She sees their eyes light up and their bodies start moving when she plays a song they enjoy. Some residents actually get up and dance! They have also seen residents who normally don’t talk start singing or moving their bodies to the beat, too. The results have been amazing.

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Research shows that listening to music can boost mood, memory and recognition in individuals with dementia, Parkinson’s and other diseases that damage brain chemistry.

Hinrichs recently hired Caitlin Hayes, a music therapist, to come in and work with the residents at Sagecrest in groups of 10 to 12. Hayes engages them by playing a variety of instruments and singing songs from their generation. She logs their progress and has already started to notice great results. Music therapy helps to create a better quality of life for seniors by improving cognitive, social, functional and spiritual functions. Hayes is getting more engaged responses when she asks questions, and communication between the residents and their peers is improving.

In addition to having a music therapist work with residents, Baptist Retirement Community schedules performances with volunteers from the San Angelo Symphony. Hinrichs also uses MP3 players and small CD players for personalized music therapy experiences. She speaks with residents to find out what music they like. If they cannot talk, she asks their families.

Music inspires and is making people move and engage all over the world. Music therapy is for all generations. Check out this new music-inspired form of exercise if you want to see more of how people of all ages are affected by its positive vibes. Here’s another example of how music inspired this senior, who usually walks with canes. Let the music move you and the residents at your senior living community!

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