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.

How you can help:

7 Responses to “Music”

  1. Nikitaland Says:

    What an awesome post! Loved it!

  2. train-whistle Says:

    Thanks Nikitaland. I’m on a mission to bring personalized music to the elders I serve and love. We are collecting gently used ipods, itunes gift cards, and donations. We’ve had some luck and are on our way to our goal. My friend, and elder Attorney, Doris, is helping me with the project. I look forward to documenting some of the stories. I know there will be many.

  3. Ron McKinney aka "OldMack" Says:

    This is a great idea.

    • train-whistle Says:

      Thanks Mack. I think it’s a very do-able project. Appreciate your reading and that you think it’s worth pursuing.

      ps: You and I need to get back to writing. I’ve been missing your posts.

  4. Southern Sea Muse Says:

    Thank you for the inspiring idea. Two weeks ago my mother with dementia attended our son’s spring band concert. She didn’t remember we were going to go, she didn’t know why we were there, but darned if she didn’t belt out intermittent melody and harmony to “Rhapsody in Blue” when a young man headed for Juliard accompanied the band on the piano. It just hit her head-on – she knew it, hands-down. And, why not? My iPod is what propels me on my runs. Wonderful, wonderful idea!

    • train-whistle Says:

      the response to music is amazing and heartwarming. I’m so glad she enjoyed the experience, even if it was just in the specific little window of a moment. Am thinking of you and your journey.

      • Southern Sea Muse Says:

        Thank you, and special thanks for your insights. Blogging is amazing…one just never knows the power of their words until they put them out there, to be gobbled up and used for good for who knows who, what, when, where or why!

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: