Music therapy for seniors enhancing quality of life

THV11's Laura Monteverdi shows us how music can help seniors keep their brain sharp, while also having lots of fun

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KTHV) -- Music has the ability to take us back in time, evoking memories and feelings from the past. Which is why this 'medicine for the mind' can be so beneficial for the elderly.

As part of our ‘Modern Mending’ week, Laura Monteverdi introduced us to Music Therapy.

It's the universal language of mankind, a language that Ellen Hammond knows well.

“I used to sing alto, second alto, all through high school, all through college. If they wanted the low note, they always gave it to me. Then I had to have surgery on my vocal cords and now I’m a soprano!”

A music teacher until she was 80, the now retired 95-year-old can still hit a high note. Twice a month, she takes part in a music therapy class at Morningside of Fayetteville, an assisted living facility in Northwest Arkansas.

“Music therapy is basically using music to address non-music goals.”

The class, composed of a group of seniors, is taught by board certified music therapist, Carrie Jenkins. She uses instruments, songwriting and games to connect with her students.

“Music is so beneficial on so many levels. Even just being able to listen to a song can just elevate their mood and get them in a better mind frame for the rest of the day,” said Jenkins.

Not only is music uplifting and a great way for people to connect, but it also helps those suffering from memory loss and social isolation.

“There are some people who may not be able to tell me what they had for breakfast or what they were doing that day but I sing 2-3 notes and they can blurt the entire song out to me just like that. It’s not just clicking sticks or me playing guitar to them, it’s them being able to be a part of the experience. With me. It’s them connecting not just with me but also with everyone else in the room,” said Jenkins.

“You have to get out and socialize or you lose your ability to talk if you’re not with people. You can’t think of the words because you don't talk enough to other people. That's what I have found,” said Ellen.

But where words fail, music speaks.

“Everyone loves music. You can’t not love music. It's the best way to connect.”

Jenkins says with diseases like dementia you may lose different memory aspects, like short-term memory, speech or hearing.

But since music is stored in almost all areas of the brain, it's easier to retain.


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