Two populations mainly associated with Music Therapy are senior citizens and children. When it comes to music groups in music therapy, these two groups of individuals respond extremely well to music spiritually, emotionally and physically. During music therapy collegiate internships and practicums, these populations are always covered and experienced by students to provide a range of experience. Due to the childlike nature of many seniors as they become older and more dependent, many people tend to naturally treat them as children which can ultimate lead to further deterioration and decline in health. Although many seniors experiencing the effects of Alzheimers and Dementia enjoy more simple songs and activities that require little direction or intense thought, it is important to remember that they are still adults and that there are plenty of interventions and music activities that can be done!
The most simple but ultimately most successful activity to do with seniors is a basic sing/play-along sessions. In these sessions, selecting music from the decades of their teens and early 20s and playing it live for them often brings about memories and lively spirits. Giving them small hand-held instruments to play along if the do not know or remember the songs provides a distraction to the memory loss or even just something for idle hands.
Another activity is holiday/seasonal themed with props. For example, on Patriotic Holiday activities can include small individual flags for each client to wave while singing, summer activities could include a beach ball, winter activities could include waving scarves, etc.
One final activity that I enjoy doing with seniors is similar to the sing/play-along but this time I allow for a discussion at the end of each song. If you are working with a group that has the cognitive and physical ability to have short discussions, this activity can provide increased social skills and conversational language skills.
There are still times where childrens activities are appropriate, such as songs involving following directions, high and low motions, maracas, etc. It is best to ask the director or facilitator ahead of time to know the functioning level or the residents or clients!
Have another way to engage seniors in music therapy? Let us know in the comments below!
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