Archive for May, 2013


May 28, 2013

I have worked with institutionalized elders for over thirty years. I’ve seen first hand what a difference music makes in the lives of these people. Residents who never speak, sing. Residents who cannot remember their names or the faces of family members, can sing the words to favorite songs, from beginning to end.

My epiphany came on Mother’s Day. What do you give a woman who has everything and wants nothing? The answer came in an ipod shuffle with hundreds of her favorite songs, by her favorite artists. The look on her face when I turned on the ipod was priceless. Hands down, best gift ever!

Then, I envisioned every elder at my facility with an ipod. I imagined the looks on their faces. I imagined them humming, singing, and tapping their toes.

My imagination carries me to the elder I’ve seen often, the one suffering with advanced dementia, the one without family, without a history known to staff. She sits in a wheelchair at the nurses station, head bowed. She suffers from loneliness, helplessness, and boredom. She is fed, changed and kept physically warm.

I imagine myself placing earbuds on this woman, turning on an ipod with music from her younger years. She sings.

A visitor walking down the hall hears this resident’s voice and turns. He walks back to where the lyrics of Morning Has Broken lilt in a sweet soprano.

“Oh my gosh. It’s Mrs. Taylor.” the visitor says.

“Yes it is.”

“She was my music teacher in seventh grade. I haven’t heard that song since she taught it to us.”

I wait until Mrs. Taylor stops singing. I take the ear buds from her ears. Her eyes open, and I introduce her to her former student. He drops to a knee beside her and takes her hand in his. Mrs. Taylor smiles.

Maya Angelou said, “Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.”

I imagine that Maya Angelou is right.

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