I don’t think that words alone can express the impact of these music programs, but I will try my best!
This has been a particularly sombre year. Covid restrictions have prevented us from doing group programs and for months residents have been practically confined to their rooms. Though our staff continues to do amazing work, many of the residents have been suffering from boredom and loneliness.
When I come in there the halls are usually empty and quiet (not counting the constant beeping and humming of medical equipment). I usually just sit or stand in the hallway and start singing a gentle tune like edelweiss to let people know that I’ve arrived.
As I play signs of life gradually begin to emerge, heads begin to peek out of doorways and applause might drift out of people’s rooms between songs. Once I can see that most people are awake and engaged I start to sing more fun, upbeat songs like “hey good lookin” or “walk the line”. This is when the magic really starts to happen!
Once things get grooving, people start to smile and laugh, frowns and furrowed brows melt away as people lose themselves in the old songs and memories. Sometimes a resident will get up and start dancing for a tune or two (which can be very nerve-wracking if they forget their walker!). This is especially awesome when the physio therapy people are working with a resident who is recovering their ability to walk. If I am around, sometimes I can get them dancing, turning what might be a great challenge of exertion into a source of fun!
One thing that I find very heartening is how much many of the residents enjoy seeing each other enjoying themselves. Often while I’m playing I’ll have residents point each other out to me, they’ll say “wow look at her! what a great dancer” or “look at that lovely smile, he’s usually frowning” or something like that.
There is one resident who likes to bring out his fiddle and play along, If I see that he’s really getting a tune I’ll look over between verses and tell him to “take it away”, then I quiet down and help him through a solo, he always gets a good hearty round of applause from residents and staff and just makes everyone smile.
It’s not all about the music though; In between songs I chat with the people, listening to stories awakened by the music or just telling them about myself and my life. I’ve developed some really meaningful relationships this way, sometimes it feels like I have dozens of adopted grandparents! For some people the music really is one of the only things breaking up their week and many residents will be waiting for me all day if they think I’m coming.
I could tell so many stories, but where do I stop? I could tell you about the woman who hadn’t left her bed since arriving getting up to dance to my music, I could talk about the crying lady who bursts into a beautiful smile when I play the right song, I could talk about the way the music interrupts the negative though cycles some people are trapped in. I could talk about many things, but the truth is that words can’t really do it justice. If everyone in the world were to witness this work in action there would be no need for advocacy.
I am extremely grateful that I can continue doing the work that I love, at a time when people need it the most! A HUGE thank you to the donors and organizers who have made this possible!!!!!