Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘Health’

Happy Second Birthday!

Music Sparks is two years old. 

It has been a great year – both in Hays and in social media.  

Here in Hays, I have had great fun regularly providing group music therapy services at some area assisted living facilities including a very successful intergenerational group at one facility. Being invited to take part in the Family Fun Fest at the Mall was an absolute blast! The fall Saturday morning class was great fun for me and the boys who attended. I am also thankful for the opportunity to volunteer some time during the year in the Good Samaritan Alzheimer’s unit – New Horizons.

Social media wise, things are booming. Our Facebook page has reached over 100 “likes”. As of June 2011, SPARKS is now a bi-weekly newsletter providing resources for preschoolers, older adults and intergenerational programs around different themes. And, as of today, Music Sparks has a new website: music2spark. Do check out the new site!

I am so thankful I found Laura Crum who is assisting me in the process, and providing guidance. I also have a lot of people who have served as mentors in social media:

Things only look for exciting for Music Sparks this coming year. As I announced in May, there are lots of changes coming. The intergenerational program will now be known as Music Sparks: Sharing Songs. Beginning in September there will be an additional evening session. For children 18 months through age 3 I will offer Music Sparks: Discover one morning a week. And, the Saturday morning class for 5-6 year olds will reappear as Music Sparks: Exploration. (Click here to check the Preschool Class page for details.)

Older adults not in Assisted Living aren’t forgotten. I am working on some group music opportunities just for you! The best place for you to find out about upcoming sessions is the Older Adult tab.  

Thank you to all who read this blog. I’ll see you from now on at the new, improved site  – Music 2 Spark!

Story Songs for Older Adults

Telling Stories

Image via Wikipedia

When my clients make me think, it gets me excited. This past week, a conversation started at an assisted living facility on stories told by songs. There are so many songs that tell stories, so the question became which to recommend. Once I was home from the session, I through the topic out to Twitterverse and received responses from Kat Fulton, Rachelle Norman, Carolyn D., and Carol Costantino. Thank you ladies!

This list of songs is from these ladies along with a few of my own. Songs will likely appeal older adults – 65+ in age. Where possible, I’ve linked to a recording on YouTube for easy of use by caregivers and seniors who wish to listen.

All of these have the makings of discussion starters. If you use any of these story songs to facilitate a group, please share the response you have to them. Love this idea but work with young children? No problem, I’ll soon have a list for this group & inter-generational groups very soon.

7 Link Challenge – Music Sparks Version

backlit house number

Image by cmurtaugh via Flickr

My friend, Michelle Erfurt put out a challenge on Music Therapy Tween for a 7 link challenge. This seemed like a simple challenge. The questions only apply to the dates of August 2010 – July 2011. So here we go!

  1. Your first post of August 2010: Music for All This was a short post sharing a link. Boy have my posts changed in the last year.
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: Right Down to Your Toes I love being barefoot. I love getting a pedicure. Finding this poem and turning it into a song was a joy.
  3. A post which had a great discussion: It surprises me that a couple tied: Time to Spring Forward and Singable Books: Patriotic.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written:  Intergenerational Music at Cornerstone I wish I had a big hit post like this one on intergenerational music that was on my blog.  This may be a goal for this coming year. I wrote something that impacted the lives of those for whom I provide services.
  5. Your most helpful post: Brining Australia to Kansas This post brought comments from Australia that informed my sessions. The residents were very impressed to have music suggested from around the globe.
  6. A post with a title that you are proud of:  Yes, You Can! The title created interest and was a great summary of this video. We can each make a difference in the lives of those dealing with dementia.
  7. A post that you wish more people had read: Singing Bowl Meditation Doing meditation with a group of older adults with a variety of backgrounds and diagnosis can be a challenge. But, this seemed to work.

Now, it is your turn! If you are a blogger, share your list of seven.

I want a vacation!


When I was employed as an Activity Director in long-term care, it took a lot of effort and time to arrange my vacations. At first, I found taking a vacation more stressful than not having a break. I  had to be sure all my charting was completed, all the activities were covered, materials were in place…it was a lot of work! In my  many years in the position at a variety of facilities, I did learn a few things that made it easier. And, I became a much healthier, happier person.

  1. Plan your vacation before you plan your calendar. This allows you to be sure you don’t schedule events you must be there in order for them to succeed.
  2. Identify coverage with your supervisor. Knowing who will provide coverage allows you to play to that person’s strengths, schedule events according to available coverage, etc. Sometimes my Administrator would hold a Resident Council meeting while I was away or another conversation based event.
  3. Contact your volunteers for extra assistance. Increasing the volunteer coverage provided for more one on one attention while I was away. Also, some of my volunteers were great at leading specific groups but not others. So, if chasing bowling balls & pins (this was pre Wii days) was something outside their physical contort but doing a group crossword was a strength, we would schedule accordingly.
  4. Set aside time prior to leaving to complete charting, purchase materials, leave plans. Leaving with your charting complete is key. I would create daily plan sheets of what was to happen when, who would lead the event, who generally attended these groups, and materials needed for the event. While it sounds like a lot, much of it was easy once I completed two days. It became more of a copy and paste. Then, if the covering person or volunteer was ill, there was sufficient information for the event to occur. And, I had a complete list of supplies to purchase if necessary as well as to leave. I tried to provide a little extra time in my schedule the last five days leading up to vacation to accomplish this.
  5. Plan for some easy to implement events while you are gone. Generally, my residents loved certain events that didn’t need much explaining like bingo. I also had materials from resources like Creative Forecasting, Activity Connections, and A New Day which were already set up for use. You can also use materials from newsletters like SPARKS (available for FREE here on the right), materials from your corporate office, or other resources. I general made copies and attached them to the sheets for each day or placed them in a three-ring binder organized by day.
  6. Schedule time for key staff to update you on what happened while you were away on your first day back. I found it helpful to sit with the Administrator, Social Service Director, or DON/ADON for 20 minutes the morning I returned to be up to date on everyone’s status. It let me prioritize my charting, resident visits, and alerted me to special needs that had developed in my absence.

Celebrate “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”

An artist's palette

Image via Wikipedia

January 31st is Inspire Your Heart With Art Day.  It celebrates art and the effect it can have on your heart. No matter your age, art (in all its forms) can be valued and appreciated for all sorts of reasons. Even if your finances are tight, there are ways to access the arts and to find inspiration.

Look at a piece of art  or listen to a piece of music and ask yourself:

  • What is it telling me?
  • How does it make me feel?
  • What emotions is it evoking (if any) within me?
  • If I were to title this work of art, it would be called ___________.
  • Is there another work of art, piece of music, literary work, etc.  that expresses a similar idea?

Enjoy “Inspire Your Heart with Art Day”.  I look forward to learning what inspired you!

Holiday care

christmas music

Image by euze via Flickr

I started periodically hearing Christmas carols on November 1st.  Without a doubt, I’ll walk into he local assisted living facilities this week and see Christmas decorations.  Decorations and songs carry emotional ties to many. (My family tradition limited Christmas music – except when practicing, and decorating until December 13th and it continued until January 6th so I am still adjusting to Christmas before Halloween.)

During the years I worked as an Activity Director, carolers were asking to come sing all hours of the day.  The first year, I scheduled as many as I could only to hear comments like “I’ll throw up if I hear one more carol” by December 15th.  I learned to ask the Resident Council in October how many carolers they would like a day.   They often asked me to limit it to one group per day.  I also inquired about the playing of holiday music during meals after Thanksgiving with the group asking it not be played loudly.  There was also the balancing of various faiths and customs in my planning.

Now as a private practitioner I keep these thoughts in mind.  I tend to limit my holiday music or intermix it with my plans.  As one who helps my church plan community outreach, I try to promote sharing hymns or leading singalongs in January when other groups aren’t there. And, I point out how such a schedule helps keep January from being a let down.

For those working in Long term care, assisted living, skilled nursing facilities and related facilities, I offer the following thoughts:

  • Be sensitive to how clients/patients are handling the holidays.  Some people are focused on the losses in their lives – who isn’t there to celebrate.  Others are more focused on pleasant memories.  Some have friends and family to support them while others lack this support system.
  • Be aware of the emotional charge some music carries for some people.  Try to follow their lead as to carols and other music selections.  There are varying tolerances of tears.
  • Feel free to mix things up. I am aware of a lot of songs that are used during the holidays hat are about winter rather than the holidays (e.g.- “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland“).  I use these throughout the winter season.  I also encourage listening to newer holiday songs.  Many of the residents with which I work love to discuss “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer“.  And, it doesn’t carry the emotional ties of songs like “I’ll be Home for Christmas”.  Yes, I still sing the emotional favorites as they request them, but I mix them in with other songs.   I also share songs from a variety of countries and faiths as appropriate to the group I am with.

May your December be joy and music filled!

Food in song

As the United States gears up for Thanksgiving, many people are starting to think about food.  Food provides us the energy for living.  It is important to consider eating in healthy ways.  Our diets need to have a balance of nutrition and may be affected by allergies, diagnoses and medications.  Eating mind fully (thinking about, enjoying the tastes and smells of eating) rather than without thought (eating while watching a movie and not thinking about taste, your fullness).

Foods show up in lots of songs.  What are your favorites?

Recollection through Sound


Old man

Image via Wikipedia


Working with older adults has provided me many insights.  I plan on being a “loving life” kind of woman in my 90’s who still tries lots of new activities along with old favorites.  Surrounding myself with family, friends, and music are high on my list.  I look forward to days of laughter and enjoyment – less work but as much joy as now, still learning, still sharing.  I plan on surrounding myself with people who help me make all these connections and activities.  Wonder how many people will be singing WWII music with me along as well as all the folk songs, children’s songs, church hymns and silly favorites with which I now fill my days?

It always seems like such a gift to be allowed to work with the older adults.  Singing songs seems to bring out the stories.  Those of limited words may suddenly burst into song, drum along, or share a smile or tear.  My work as a music therapist has allowed me to peek into the lives of those with whom I work.  It is also something others have reported.  Here is a great article about just that.  Read it and enjoy!  Aging Well Magazine – Music Therapy in Dementia Treatment — Recollection Through Sound.

Colors in Life

Colouring pencils

Image via Wikipedia

Next week, I will share songs centered on the theme our “Colorful World”.  In doing so, I am struck by three thoughts.  The first an appreciation of colors. Next, the number of songs that comment on colors.  And lastly, how wonderful is the gift of sight.

In appreciating colors, take a moment to look at the space around you.  Focus on the colors and the many shades. My, what variety!  How amazing to have a vocabulary to express the essence of each.  How does one develop that understand & vocabulary?  Start listing songs to go with each color.  Some are easy (there seem to be a ton of blue songs) while others are more difficult (magenta?).  Then there are songs that just describe the world and it’s wonders.  Consider this:

Yet I also realize that sight is a gift.  How amazing our eyes are at providing a range of information.  It is something many take for granted.  Yet, everyday I encounter people with low or no vision.  Some have experienced “normal” sight while others don’t have that history.  They may see with other senses.  What considerations go into raising a child with low vision? How does one accommodate an aging family members loss of sight?  Do I make appropriate accommodations during my music sessions for all the varying issues with sight?   I encourage you to follow along on a journey of a family member as they look at accessibility for the blind and visually impaired at

In the mean time, take a moment to say a word of gratitude for your sight and the colors around you.

Drum Circle Facilitation and Music Therapy

Alfaia (Maracatu drum)

Image via Wikipedia

In the last week I have mentioned drum circles several times.  My friend, Kat, did a wonderful job explaining the differences between music therapy and drum circle facilitation.   Please take a moment to read this insightful blog! Drum Circle Facilitation and Music Therapy.  It includes a video of Bongo Barry – a special man who is greatly missed!

Tag Cloud