By LAURI GROSS
Some things never get old, such as the impact and appeal of music and art.
Krystal Martin, senior memory care director at Maplewood at Chardon said of the therapeutic art and music programs at her facility, “We use different techniques to allow residents to be expressive and creative and to be connected to the world around them and the outside.”
Andrea Bailey, life enrichment coordinator at The Weils in Bainbridge said that, while Covid restrictions have necessitated changes to The Weils’ music and art programs, the Weils team continues to offer both to residents.
“Prior to Covid, we had volunteers come in from the National Council of Jewish Women,” Andrea explained. “They were wonderful. They did sing-alongs.” A retired art teacher from the Orange school district also volunteered at The Weils, leading art programs for residents. “We were very fortunate at The Weils to have those volunteers,” Andrea said.
Kim Pidala is the lead life enrichment coordinator at The Weils. She said, “The creativity of music and art is a therapy for residents, to engage in something and get their mind off something else. People love to sing and to listen to entertainment. They love to look at the art they produce. It is a conversation piece. They might say, ‘This reminds me of such-and-such’ or maybe when they were younger and they used to paint and they see certain colors they’d use and they think about their childhood.”
During Covid, Andrea said, “We did room-to-room visits with a music cart.” She explained that some residents would get up and move and dance. “We like to keep everybody’s brain and body moving,” she added.
Art programs at Maplewood include sessions where residents create greeting cards to send to family members. Krystal said there is “amazement on their faces at the end when they say ‘wow I just created that.’”
Even residents living with cognitive impairment, Krystal explained, can create what she called magnificent artwork. “One of our favorites is pour painting,” she said as she explained the technique of pouring paint onto a canvas and rotating and tilting it as the colors swirl into beautiful abstract designs. “Residents sell these to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. These and other art programs continue during Covid, but with social distancing and masks.
Before Covid, Andrea said, there was often live music in The Weils’ community room, and happy hour with live music. This past summer, The Weils had live music – and watercolor painting programs – on their outdoor patio with socially distanced residents
One couple was especially popular at The Weils’ live music events. Andrea said, “They fell in love dancing and danced up till the end. The other residents loved to watch them dance.” The husband recently passed away from Covid. His wife still lives at The Weils.
Another resident, aged 90, plays on the Weils’ baby grand piano and regularly draws an audience of other residents.
Music programs at Maplewood take on many forms. One is a guided therapeutic music program started as a study with the Benjamin Rose Institute on Aging. Maplewood continues the program which features songs grouped by theme. “Seniors get to talk about stories from their past and it lights up their eyes when they have memories from a certain song,” Krystal said.
Another program is called Music and Memory where residents use an iPod preloaded with music important to them. “Maybe it’s their wedding song or a song from their first date or their favorite song,” Krystal said as she explained they do this at 4 p.m. each day. “Music helps calm any anxious or sundowning behaviors,” she explained. “We also found music increases appetite so they eat better for dinner. We use this mostly in our memory-care program.”
Residents also enjoy painting ceramics as part of the Wiels’ art program, or making beaded jewelry, making mosaics, or painting birdhouses. When they painted bird houses, Andrea explained, “We talked about colors and what kind of bird might be attracted to them and we talked about putting the birdhouses out when the weather is warm.”
To replace the frequent live music programs held at Maplewood before Covid, now live entertainers perform by Zoom. “We put them on our big screen TVs,” said Krystal. “It’s neat to make the residents feel that the person is still there in front of them.”
Another Maplewood program is called SingFit. During these guided programs, residents are encouraged to follow along with gentle movements. “At the end,” Krystal said, “some residents are full of sunshine. They say ‘this is amazing that we can do journeys through music.’”
Music and art programs at senior centers offer opportunities to engage and remember
By LAURI GROSS