Memory Care’s sentimental journey.
Sarah Wylie haunts the thrift stores of Peoria and Phoenix, AZ, searching dusty stacks for the perfect LPs – Lawrence Welk, “Sing Along with Mitch,” and Liberace. On a lucky day, she can score an old big-band LP in good condition for 50 cents.
As Memory Care Coordinator at Spectrum Retirement’s Palos Verdes Senior Living, Wylie sees first-hand how music affects residents, including tunes from satellite radio and piped-in from overhead.
“We play music a lot during meals,” she says. “They stay at the table longer, eat more, talk back and forth.”
She often starts the old tunes for a handful of early risers in Memory Care, triggering recognition: “My wife and I used to dance to that,” she’s heard.
Wylie also hosts “Name That Tune,” using wartime melodies or those of their 1950s child-rearing years. The game successfully prompts memories. “One will say, ‘We always used to sing that at the such and such,’ and another will answer, ‘Yeah, me, too.’”
Wylie schedules singalongs, using the group’s personalized songbook. “We’ve always got at least two-part harmony,” she says.
Finally, Palos Verdes uses Linked Senior, a web-based program that provides access to customized music, games, libraries, brain exercises, trivia and more via a touch-screen kiosk.
“Yesterday, we were able to do the sing-alongs, following a bouncing ball,” she says.
At Spectrum’s Lincoln Meadows Senior Living in Parker, CO, Alana McNeil, Memory Care Fun Coordinator, partners with a music therapist each Friday to bring music to the Memory Care residents there.
“She works with them as a group,” McNeil says. Songs entail feelings – “Good Morning” is about how the morning is going, and may be followed by wartime oldies. “They can be half asleep when she (the therapist) walks in, and by time she leaves, they’re wide awake,” McNeil says. “It’s energizing, and they’re reminiscing. Music is a universal language
– and an easy thing for them to connect with.”
McNeil uses background music to draw residents out during mealtimes, often big-band pieces. Entertainers visit twice or three times a week, she says, bringing a variety of music. One plays a banjo, another celebrates summer with baseball favorites.
McNeil stresses the importance of music to Memory Care residents. “Music is a great way for them to get involved in everyday things, and an easy way to get into social situations and make friends.”