On a sunny Tuesday afternoon at the Las Villas de Carlsbad retirement and assisted living center in Carlsbad, California, a large group of senior residents, children, and parents jam and sing to a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" as part of their weekly Music Together class. Resident Lola Larson is particularly animated.
Drum in hand, she stands and marches with a broad smile on her face. For Lola and many other elders, the Music Together class is an opportunity to be introduced—or reintroduced—to the joy of community music-making. Music Together Generations classes, like Lola's, are held at many locations around the country. Every day, in retirement homes, assisted living facilities, and adult day services centers, people of all ages come together to sing, dance, shake eggs, and swing scarves.
With grandparents and great-grandparents making music alongside babies, toddlers, and preschoolers, the classes take on an even deeper meaning. Parents find this interaction deeply meaningful, and it's also meaningful for the teachers to witness and facilitate those connections.
For many senior participants, "music with the babies" is the highlight of the week. And, just as music-learning supports children's development, it also greatly enhances the well-being of seniors. Whether they are ambulatory or in wheelchairs, elders in class are encouraged to play instruments, dance, wiggle, and of course! Music Together's song collections include traditional tunes familiar to many seniors, which is enjoyable for everyone.
Singing familiar songs is also incredibly beneficial for elders with any type of memory loss. Neuroscience researchers and music therapists have long studied the role that music plays in the health and aging experiences of seniors suffering from memory and thought-processing issues, particularly associated with Alzheimer's disease or dementia.
A study found that the section of the prefrontal cortex housing long term memories and emotional connections to memories showed heightened activity when subjects listened to familiar music. Given that this section of the prefrontal cortex is one of the last areas to deteriorate in people suffering from Alzheimer's disease, these findings offer a possible explanation for why some Alzheimer's and dementia patients exhibit an overall "awakening"—and even memory recall—when they listen to music with which they may have had a connection or association in the past.
During Music Together time, it's not unusual for this "awakening" to be observed by the teachers, parents, and facility activity directors. Music classes bring many residents back to a time when music was an integral part of their lives.
Many elders love to tell stories of time spent playing in big bands, meeting up with friends at the local dance hall, or singing in a church choir. Sharing those memories with the parents and children delights the residents. We ALL finish the class with joyful hearts, which is a great gift.
As the class at Las Villas de Carlsbad winds down, Lola and other residents linger with the parents and children, talking and laughing as if they've known one another for years. Healthy Lifestyles Director Jillyan Leighton watches this camaraderie and smiles. The combination of music and movement is so beneficial to them. They are socially interacting with their peers and the children, and the movement is so great for them physically as well. It's a wonderful program, and the residents enjoy it just as much as the beautiful children do!
The Beat Goes On! Music Together Generations On a sunny Tuesday afternoon at the Las Villas de Carlsbad retirement and assisted living center in Carlsbad, California, a large group of senior residents, children, and parents jam and sing to a rousing rendition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" as part of their weekly Music Together class.
Photos courtesy of Lola Larson Lola in and today. Photo by Karin Bruno. Photo by Dave Burbank. Subscribe to our Newsletter. Close Subscribe.