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Sharing Music with Older Adults

Sharing Music with Older Adults

Posted on May 16, 2022 by Li Kynvi, MA, MT-BC, LMHC

It seems to be human nature that we spend our time with activities that are easily available. This is true even if it means bypassing those things that we enjoy, that bring us deep pleasure and that leave us feeling good inside.

Over the past decade or so, I’ve noticed television becoming incredibly easy for older adults to access (ubiquitous large screens, many specific choices, remote access, etc.). Simultaneously, music has become increasingly difficult, if not impossible, for older adults to access. There are a few music channels on the TV, but very little choice and almost no control. Most older adults no longer have all those record albums and a working phonograph. As even CDs become rare, many are not able to access, control, and in some cases understand how to use streaming music services successfully.

For millions in our younger generations, advanced technology is a road to music listening bliss. There are unlimited streaming choices available on touch screens connected to small devices tucked into our pockets and ears. Streaming services have allowed for music to become very specialized and niche. If you're seeking a specific sound, you no longer need to rely on a radio station DJ.

But these same technologies are baffling, frustrating, and frequently inaccessible to our older adults, who often feel bewildered, embarrassed, or simply clueless about how they could possibly listen to their favorite music.

While this situation leaves much to be desired, one of the silver linings is that it offers a beautiful opportunity for meaningful ways for people of different generations to spend time together, even when talking is difficult.

I have been working in hospice music therapy for 15 years and am passionate about helping older adults reconnect with the music they love. We made this series of videos to help you bring music to any older adult, whether they are among your loved ones, someone you visit as a hospice volunteer, or perhaps someone you know from church.

There are 6 videos in this series, and while you can watch them all in order, you can also find specific tips in each one. Click here to view the videos on a special YouTube playlist, or scroll down for easy access and descriptions of each part.

I hope this little introductory series helps you feel more confident in bringing music to the older adults in your life!

Li Kynvi is the Creative Arts Therapy Coordinator at Care Dimensions. Li is a Board Certified Music Therapist, as well as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor.

This video discusses the importance of helping older adults access their music, and introduces the rest of the videos.

This video describes how to access streaming music online through a device such as a phone or tablet, and how to connect that device through Bluetooth to an external speaker.

This video offers advice on topics like where to sit, where to place a light source, and how close to be to a person. It emphasizes how important it is that the person receiving the music always has the power to stop it, if they choose to.

Assuming a person cannot tell you with words what music they love, how do you choose it for them? How do you assess what effect it’s having?

This video focuses on offering music from the time when someone begins to disengage from the world around them, through end of life. It emphasizes how to watch for the effect music is having during these sacred hours, focusing on communication with the eyebrows.

This video touches on both playing recordings and singing live with folks who have dementia. I talk about how to use your energy, facial expressions, and physical movements to engage people, and avoiding overwhelm.

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Since 1978, Care Dimensions, formerly Hospice of the North Shore,  has provided comprehensive and compassionate care for individuals and families dealing with life-threatening illnesses. As the non-profit leader in advanced illness care, we offer services in over 100 communities in Massachusetts.

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