Music to spark a better life for older adults and preschoolers

Posts tagged ‘Quality of life’

Hummm for your Health

Hum & Strum Along with Chet Atkins

Image via Wikipedia

I love learning things. I have learned lots of crazy things. I have learned many things that fascinate me. So it is with humming. While I was interviewed by Janis Harris, MT-BC she shared research on health benefits of humming. There is an amazing amount of research. (Check Google Scholar and see for yourself.) Research seems to indicate sustained, low-pitched humming several times a day increases the nitric oxide produced in the sinuses which seems to decrease frequency and severity of sinus infections in adults.

Maybe the Disney lyrics could be changed to:

Oh, hum while you work. Hmmmm. Oh, hum while you worked. Hmmmm. And if you do it faithfully your sinus won’t hurt.”

Maybe Chet Akins was onto something when we created “Hummm and Strum Along.” Humming can be done:

  • While completing a simple task. Hum while you wash the dishes, load the washing machine, water the plants. Get the idea?
  • While in your car.  Hum along to a songs on the radio. It will be less stressful on your vocal folds than singing can be.
  • As part of meditating. Maybe the yogis weren’t crazy using Om (or Aum).

Take a moment and share a place you can hum in the comments below. And hum while you do it.

Welcome Summer!

In the good old summertime. [canoe] (LOC)

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Summer officially begins on June 21, 2011. Why not celebrate the day with songs? Here are a few songs older adults may recognize.

  • In the Good Old Summertime
  • Summertime
  • “Tis the last Rose of Summer
  • June is Busting Out All Over (Be sure and check out the song spotlight  and song writing info at Soundscape Music Therapy)
  • Summer Wind
  • We’ll Sing in the Sunshine
  • Beach Baby
  • By the Sea
  • Barefootin’

You can bring in more senses with old pictures of swim suits, picture of a fan blowing on a block of ice (old-time air conditioning), a beach ball, a pale with shovel, maybe a little sand to run through the fingers (or toes), coconut butter, baby oil (an old-time sun tanning lotion) just to name a few.

As for this traveling music therapist, I’m cranking up the AC and the tunes while I share a few memories of summers passed around the Hays, Kansas area.

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.

Top 10 Songs Long-Term Care Staff Should Know


Image by firepile via Flickr

During the recent Midwest Regional Music Therapy Conference in Overland Park, Kansas I heard a wonderful case study using music to assist with bathing which I shared in my post “Reflections on Music Therapy Conference”.  That has spurred me to think about how I have used music over the years in long-term care both as an activity staff member and as a music therapist . I have injected music into lots of events from horse racing to exercise to facility scabies scrub downs. As a music therapist, I know a ton of songs. That has worked to my advantage.

Having the staff involved in the music improved the response by the residents. Staff musically interacting with residents can make for a home like atmosphere, a sense of genuine compassion, and an energized facility. It can make everyday duties like ADLs or waiting for a meal less taxing.  Singing favorite songs for or with a resident dealing with a dementing diagnosis  can sometimes increase responsiveness. Given the limited number of long-term care facilities which employ a music therapist or contract music therapy services, I thought it would be nice to share songs the staff could join residents in singing. Know that song preferences change with resident, locale and facility.  With that in mind here is my Top Ten Songs to Know in Long-Term Care.

  1. Amazing Grace – An old church hymn many people know & sing
  2. Clementine – Folk song with chorus & verses. Songs with choruses allow for easier participation even if residents don’t remember the verses.
  3. Five Foot Two – This flapper song seems to get toes tapping and lots of facial expression whenever I use it. It is a great one for starting a talk about fashion.
  4. God Bless America – A patriotic number many older adults know well.
  5. Happy Birthday – Self explanatory, I hope!
  6. Let Me Call You Sweetheart – Old love song which can bring out waltzing type moves. You can also ask residents about other nicknames to substitute in the lyrics for sweetheart.
  7. Pack Up Your Troubles – While this WWI song seems too old, I find most people know it.
  8. She’ll Be Coming Round the Mountain – Another folk song that can easily be changed up.
  9. Take Me Out to the Ball Game – Men & women alike know this song.
  10. You Are My Sunshine

Here are some other big favorites from my visits that you could also consider adding to your repertoire:

  1. America
  2. America the Beautiful
  3. April Showers
  4. Auld Lang Syne
  5. Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out the Barrel)
  6. Home on the Range
  7. How Much is that Doggie in the Window
  8. I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl)
  9. I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles
  10. I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover
  11. I’ve Been Working on the Railroad
  12. In the Garden
  13. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
  14. My Wild Irish Rose
  15. Oh What a Beautiful Morning
  16. Oh, When the Saints
  17. Oh Susanna
  18. School Days
  19. Shine On Harvest Moon
  20. Show Me the Way to Go Home
  21. Side by Side
  22. Singing in the Rain – A good one for showers and baths.
  23. Tennessee Waltz
  24. When You Wore a Tulip
  25. Your Cheating Heart

I encourage you to  ask your residents about their favorite songs. You may be surprised by the answers. If you are interested in learning more about music therapy services in long-term care, I encourage you to look at these informative posts by Rachelle Norman, MA, MT-BC:

Related articles


I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles

Image via Wikipedia

Bubbles seem to have a lifetime of uses. They are an affordable, relatively clean activity. I have used them with young children and with older adults. This past weekend, I read a post titled “Bubbles are more than meets the eye”.  Many of the developmental uses for bubbles are outlined in the article. It includes a bubble solution recipe. So, my article is more focused toward older adults and intergenerational groups.

Saying bubbles brings the songs “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” and “Tiny Bubbles” to my mind. These are two songs many older adults know by heart. In particular, I find the lyrics of “I”m Forever Blowing Bubbles” a great discussion starter:

  • What dreams have you seen in your life?
  • Did they fade & die as the song suggests? Tell me more about that.
  • What fortunes did you find hiding in your life?
  • Why do you think the lyricist spoke of fortunes in a song about bubbles?
  • Did you blow bubbles as a child? With your child?
  • Rather than sending a bride & groom off with rice, people now blow bubbles. What significance may this have?

We could also discuss where we remembered seeing bubbles during Lawrence Welk shows. Often this is where the song “Tiny Bubbles” comes into the discussion. I loved using the room air handlers or a blow dryer and creating our own Welk type event.

As a nursing home activity staff member, I also found bubbles could be part of intergenerational programs with school aged children. Depending on the class age and the teacher, it could take on a science to a social approach.We would together explore making bubbles of different sizes, discuss expectations of various wand shapes, see who could blow the most bubbles or the largest bubble, and share bubble experiences. The group also would discuss the type of air stream needed to create bubbles. Often there were discussions on the rainbows found on the bubble surface.

Enjoy some bubbles with someone today and see if a song or a smile surfaces.

April Shower Songs for Seniors

Day 118: April Showers, Etc.

Image by quinn.anya via Flickr

April Showers bring May flowers…So here are some songs I may be sharing at assisted living music therapy sessions during the month.

  • April Showers
  • Come Rain or Come Shine
  • I’m Always Chasing Rainbows
  • Kentucky Rain – Elvis Presley
  • Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee
  • Let a Smile Be Your Umbrella
  • Look to the Rainbow
  • Over the Rainbow
  • Rainy Days & Mondays
  • Save it for a Rainy Day
  • Tiptoe Through the Tulip
  • When You Wore a Tulip
  • Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head
  • Singing in the Rain

What oldies would you add to the list?

Along with the songs, my rain stick, egg head shakers, ocean drum, and thunder drum are making the rounds.  Weather is an important topic of conversation for many people – especially those with farming roots.  There are so many experiences to share related to weather – happy, sad, funny.

Want to know more of my thoughts on sharing rain songs with older adults? Then sign up for my newsletter which will be released April 16th!

Spring Training

A typical Baseball diamond as seen from the st...

Image via Wikipedia

Yes, it is still winter.  Yes, the Super Bowl was just played.  But, soon the baseball spring training games will begin.  Baseball season is a source of conversation for many.  Here are some ideas for having a baseball themed music group with older adults.

Besides singing “Take Me Out to the Ball Game“, there are other songs that deal with baseball:

While many of these songs are well-known “heavy hitters”  they would make great home run songs for a “Name that Tune or Trivia” game of baseball.  An idea for breaking away from songs would be a fill in the line using “Casey at the Bat” for scoring a base run.  Songs for cities or states with baseball teams will also work for this type of game.

A session could have a warm up time of stretches, jumping jacks (which can be modified for those seated),and  catching balls.  The group could then sing the National Anthem.  The line up could be announced with each person being named and the group cheering for them.  To add more sensory input, bring in various old mitts, types of bats (wood, metal), and balls.  Baseball cards could also be included.  For aromas (depending on allergies and setting) there are peanuts, popcorn, hot dogs, beer, and colas.

What ideas do you have to “pitch” for the fun?  I look forward to seeing them in the comments.


In my Dream Newsletter, I highlighted a few lullabies and sleep books for preschoolers.  One of my favorites is “If You Were My Bunny” by  Kate McMullan.  The book includes new lyrics to many traditional lullabies within its pages.  When my daughter was little it was a favorite of mine.

In the story, each animal parent sings a lullaby to their child.  They are based on the following songs: “Hush, Little Baby”, “Sleep, Baby Sleep”, “Rock-a-Bye Baby”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, and “Lullaby and Good Night”.

Not shared in the newsletter are a few of the CD’s we shared years ago as part of our bedtime ritual:

  • “On a Starry Night” from Windham Hill – I loved the variety and quality on this CD.  The different languages and cultures were a bonus.
  • “Dedicated to the One I Love” by Linda Ronstadt – “Winter Light” was one of my favorites off this beautiful album.

Know that it is your voice and your ritual which is so important to your child.  If you are looking for a few other references, then please check these out:

I’m Tired – a blog entry by Rachelle Norman, MT-BC

A Perfect Lullaby – a resource for information & wonderful recordings

A Mom’s Voice Plays a Special Role in Activating Newborn’s Brain – an article in Science Daily

One final item, a recording of one song from “If You Were My Bunny” I made just for you, my readers. 

Musical Picnic

I just returned from a wonderful vacation with my family!  We had the pleasure of seeing family in Sarasota, Florida.  While there we even had a great beach picnic before a sunset walk on the beach.  In a recent newsletter, I shared Picnic themed ideas.  One of items was this YouTube video by Ella Fitzgerald:

On the beach…

BeachThe sound of the waves gently breaking on the beach is a favorite of mine.  Being barefoot in the sand on a sunny day is a joy.  Lots of songs come to mind when I think of the beach including:


  • “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”, Otis Redding
  • “Walking on Sunshine”, Katrina & the Waves
  • “Under the Boardwalk”, The Drifters
  • “Limbo Rock”, Chubby Checkers
  • “Beach Baby”, First Class

What are your favorite beach songs?  Share them in the comment section below.  Together, we’ll create a great list!

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