If upon hearing, “It’s the story of a lovely lady…” or “You are my Sunshine…” you are instantly reminded of your childhood, you know the power of musical memory.
Songs tell the stories of our lives. They remind us of a special day, a good time, a first love and even a favorite car.
You can’t summon inspiration with a flick of the radio dial, or a tap on your iPod. But music can set the stage for creativity. Certain types of sounds can stimulate alpha waves in elderly brain, which normally occur when you’re close to sleep. The relaxed sensations created by alpha waves can lower their mental barriers and help them to see new connections and possibilities.
Music therapy holds so many promises for so many types of diseases, not only for memory loss but also for working with people who have movement disorders, as well as behavior problems due to dementia/Alzheimer’s disease.
It is a scientific fact that music is one of our most persistent memories and indeed can enhance and help in the recall of people, places and events. Oliver Sacks, a neurologist and author of the book, Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain, details how music is stored in the brain. His studies reveal the music we learn and love in our teens and early 20s are the musical styles that will remain our favorites throughout our lives. These are the tunes that are most closely linked to our memories.
You are my Sunshine” CD is one of those albums that can bring so much joy to any long term care community. It is rare to find a CD that activity directors can conduct the whole morning stretch program to.
Experiment with using music to spur resident’s creative juices by remembering these guidelines:
• Don’t play music nonstop. It may distract them when they need to focus their attention on details. The best time is usually the mid-afternoon, to get through the post-lunch energy slump.
• Choose the right music. What’s right? That depends on the resident’s tastes, current physical and or mental condition. Many researches find that classical music of the baroque style relaxes their mind and makes them more receptive to a unique activity program and care approach.
• Be patient. Just turning on a song won’t instantly turn residents into a fully alert and oriented individuals. Feed their mind in other ways, with art, games, and sufficient rest so they are ready and able to be creative when the time is right or during activity program.
The power of the musical memory is so strong that for a brief moment a resident can leave their anxiety, confusion and pain behind. A fact confirmed by The National Institute of Nursing Research who found music can reduce stress and pain levels. The National Institute of Education and Health Sciences reported music tempo can affect and improve mood and heart rate – a fact well known by everyone who has ever felt a bit down and turned on a radio to lighten their spirits!
Musical tastes and selections may be misunderstood between the generations but the power of music crosses all age groups from The Rat Pack to the Fab Four and ties notes to memories for a lifetime.
I have always known that music can open hearts. Through my personal experience, I have seen how it can also open minds.
Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.