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The residents' music plays

November 23, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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There was music playing through the PA system at my former facility for several years. Because of a disagreement between residents and staff over the type of music played, it was eventually eliminated.

The only music heard in the hallways or dining rooms came from an activities radio or CD player. Few residents had an interest in music except for the country music channel, and I seldom heard music coming from their rooms. But most residents did enjoy any music related to the activities of the day, from hymns to country.

During my first weekend at this new facility, I realized how important music is to some of the residents here. Some have their own music and their collections are diverse, including everything from easy listening to rap. Though I do not care for rap, my sister was pleased to hear younger people's music.

Over the weeks rolling around the hallways I saw one male resident playing the guitar. His CDs range from the Beatles and the Righteous Brothers to an occasional Barbra Streisand.

Another male resident carries his CD player and CDs around with him. It is clear that to him, CDs are his most valuable and irreplaceable possessions, and he often plays a selection of his favorites from his room. Some are 30 years old and many are also my favorites, such as the Carpenters, which I seldom hear anymore. I have no idea what this man did in his previous work life, but he seems to fancy himself as a disc jockey. I can see him as a teenager with his ear glued to a transistor radio.

A couple of residents carry portable radios with their music playing loudly as they walk the halls.

There is no doubt that these residents feel music makes their lives better. When I look into their otherwise Spartan rooms, I wonder if they brought the music with them when they first came, or if a family member or friend made sure they had their familiar tunes available. I also wonder what they do when a favorite CD breaks or wears out.

Listening to the other resident's music reminded me that I consciously left mine behind. I considered bringing my CDs, but I did not think I had the space. As a purist collector I have the jewel cases and inserts for my small collection. But since I have to have others help me play them, it is harder for me to make sure they are not damaged. I do have my iPod nano but I have not charged the battery. I never was able to put all of the songs on it that I wanted due to the limitations of my hard drive. But an iPod would be the way to have and store an extensive music collection.

For several years I have listened to my favorite music on YouTube. I like to go there and have mini concerts of my favorite selections. However, the facility's WiFi was not fast enough to consistently allow me to use YouTube. I now have a wireless Internet service, which has taken care of that problem.

As I am writing this, tunes are playing from the “disk jockey’s” room a few doors up the hall. Today he is playing Elvis Presley. Yesterday it was Ray Charles and Air Supply.

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Kathleen, music is extremely important. I brought my bright red reproduction radio/record player with me when I moved into long-term , because I can't imagine life without it. I have to have some music playing all the time,especially first thing in the morning. Our local classic rock station recently flipped over to country, and I couldn't get another station. At that I broke out my purple laptop and Itunes. I was also gifted a teal-blue CD player by a friend this summer, so I am set for all occasions.
As far as the other residents, I seem to be the one most involved in keeping a music collection around. We have a stereo in the dining hall, and I usually play it, sometimes my music, other times soothing music the elders might enjoy.
Music is really important, and I've been lucky enough here to have some control over it's presence in my environment.

Kathleen, great piece. We do a lot of education around the power of music within long-term care. At Pioneer, we spent 90 minutes showing examples of right and wrong ways to integrate music into the care plan. In my opinion, it is something some basic to all of us as human beings, yet it is often overlooked or honestly done incorrectly. The photo here is so great as it represents pretty much what you see out in most LTC communities. The staff tries, for goodness sake we all know that. However, they are just not equipped with the right tools. That is what we do at Coro...provide better tools for caregivers to bring music and spiritual support to their residents. Great piece!
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David Schofman, CEO Coro Health and the MusicFirst program

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Kathleen Mears

www.ltlmagazine.com/blog/kathleen-mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...