This is an expanded version of a guest post I shared on NursingHomeVolunteer.com.
You’ve seen the press and videos touting the power of music. Cool! Research and anecdotal evidence are demonstrating benefits from involvement in music.
You happen to be a musician. Very nice! Music is a wonderful way to connect with others.
Having volunteers involved in a senior living community can make a tremendous impact. Your gift of music is a bonus.
But, hold up!
Before you share music in the local senior living community, there are 4 questions you need to ask.
#1. What are you interested in doing?
Most people think of performing music for others. You are the performer. The seniors are the audience. Concerts are common but they are only one of many options.
Leading others in music is another favorite. Traditionally this has been sing-alongs. Drum circles, handbell choirs, and kitchen bands are a few of the many options.
You might even blend performing and leading. Maybe you share a few songs then invite the audience to take part
There are older adults who have always wanted to take lessons. Teaching piano, guitar or the instrument of their choice could be where you are called.
Do you have tech skills? Your skills are in need. Putting together personal listening lists. Helping to locate recordings by specific performers. These ideas are the tip of the iceberg.
Lead a discussion in and around music. Conversations around music can involve memories, history, and much more. Here are a few resources to assist you:
- “Music, Memory and Meaning” by Hamons, Jenkins and Befi-Henself is one resource to guide you in this. You can learn more about the book here.
- You’ll also find a wealth of ideas on the Music Sparks blog.
- Be sure and check out the song spotlights on Soundscaping Source.
#2. Is what I want to share best for individuals, small groups (4-8 people) or the whole community?
While large groups may be the norm for music, small groups or an individual should also be considered. For some people, this makes it easier to hear, to see or to process the music.
Let’s use the list above to look at the options.
Performing, leading others and a blend of the 2 are often large group activities. These also work well in smaller group settings.
Lessons work well with individuals. In limited situations, small groups would also be appropriate.
Depending on how the tech work is arranged, you may do this alone or with an individual.
Music discussion work best in small group and individual settings.
Hot tip: If this is your first-time sharing music with older adults, ask to start with a small group. It is a good way for you to develop your comfort and skills.
#3. The interests of the folks living there.
While most people enjoy a variety of music, there is not a single music style or period of music that “old folks” all love. You also need to know they may like some current popular music. Before you contact the facility, be able to state the type of music you would like to share. Ask if this is something their residents would enjoy.
Have a few day and time options. Shift changes, meals and regularly scheduled events will affect time frames for scheduling.
Be open to discussing the length of time you would like to share music. Fifteen minutes may be too short. In some situations, an hour may be too long. Ask if X minutes of sharing sounds about right.
Hot tip: If you want your share to be memorable, avoid December. Facilities get inundated with requests during the holidays.
There is a lot to consider when sharing music. The volume of sound, the size of space, the number of performers, … Here are a few questions to assist you.
- Is there any special training or preparations you need before you share?
- Will the facility provide…
- If you need chairs without arms, ask if these are available. You may need to bring them.
- Need a microphone and speaker in order to be heard?
- Will the staff be responsible for room set-up or will you?
- Need a keyboard/piano? Ask specifically about what they have.
- If it is a traditional piano, when was it last tuned?
- Is the keyboard moveable for performance needs?
So, there you go!
There are so many nice ways to share your musical gifts. Let these considerations guide you to think more broadly about what you share. Use the information and questions.
Here’s to being a music volunteer who makes a positive difference in the lives of others.