About Musical Retirement Home at Seeley's Bay
All of us are going to have to deal with the experience of aging, as well as caring for an aging loved one. It involves making decisions relating to their care, and finding the right environment to bring joy and fun into their lives throughout their retirement life. Perhaps you are dealing with a disease, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, which adds another level of care to the needs of your loved one.
Personally, you might be facing the challenge of deciding how you want to spend your retirement, and what quality of life you want as you age. It is not just about finding a place with good medical care, but also about finding the best quality of life to compliment that care.
Clearly, there are many aspects to consider when it comes to finding the right facility for you or your loved ones. One of those key aspects to consider is their daily life and what activities are incorporated into it.
I want to share with you what I consider the ideal day for you or your loved one living in a residential care or retirement facility. To me, it is a truly amazing way to live, because it speaks to the soul of the individual, to their mental and physical wellbeing. Are you intrigued to find out what makes my ideal day so different from other residential care or retirement facilities?
It starts with how you wake up. While we might have a blaring alarm clock in a traditional facility, I envision waking up to music—warm tones that soothe the mind and compliment a restful night’s sleep. As our resident is assisted with getting ready to start the day, there are a variety of musical selections for them to enjoy. All of us have sang in the shower from time to time, but for residents in my facility, singing in the shower is part of the daily routine, and it is encouraged.
Once ready to greet the day, our residents will enjoy musical selections throughout breakfast, allowing them to nourish their mind and body at the same time. Activities available for residents include exercises put to music, crafts, and so much more. Music is interwoven into all aspects of the day’s events, from the first meal to bedtime.
Music also can be a fantastic therapeutic tool, one that allows my staff to find out what might be going on in the minds and hearts of those who live in my facility. Ask a resident to choose a piece of music. Your choice may reflect a positive and upbeat mood, but other residents may choose music to reflect their sadness or grief. In each case, music can be the tool to help the staff to reach out and open the lines of communication. The goal of this tool is to fight isolation for our residents, both physically and mentally.
As a resident, you may take advantage of the quiet and secluded areas throughout the facility, where you can be alone to meditate or relax, listening to music found on YouTube or through other technology mediums. The point is that you or your loved ones are taking charge of what you want to listen to, thus increasing your daily enjoyment and helping them to relieve their stress.
Classes focus on learning music, exploring the musical history of a genre, or even learning to play on your own. Activities with an emphasis on physical fitness or crafting can still have a musical component, thus building the benefits of music into all areas of daily life. My goal is to create an amazing and joyful quality of life, one that would make you or your loved ones excited to call my facility home.
As the day comes to a close, you would drift off to sleep listening to the simple tones of a light and peaceful musical piece. Your caretakers, each with a musical background in addition to their medical one, can match music to your interests, thus individualizing your experience within our facility.
What Is the Theme?
Throughout my ideal day, there is a constant focus on music in all its aspects. From the beginning of the day, to the end, music is a point of connection for you or your loved ones and the individuals that care for you. I bet that you are thinking to yourself, “That is someplace I would like to live!”
For me, my mission was to create a residential care facility offering residents and their families an amazing quality of life through the gift of music. It is about finding ways to help you enjoy life, regardless of your physical and mental activity level. Throughout my career, I have not only had the privilege of caring for seniors in various points in their retirement, but I have also had the privilege of sharing my musical gifts with them through my saxophone.
What I have noticed is how much my musical activities in various residential homes have impacted those seniors who attended. I didn’t just play a few songs for them. I also encouraged their participation, making it more than just another event to sit through. The point was to allow them to connect with another human through music. The results are often incredible, as I watch their faces light up. They enjoy the process, and it lifts them up. Their quality of life is positively impacted, at a time when they might be coming to grips with a loss of independence due to aging.
Today’s residential nursing facilities often have to focus so much on the budget that activities, which bring joy to seniors, get a lower priority. I continue to work with residential facilities that would like to have me and my staff come more frequently, but it isn’t in the budget. My experience with these homes opened my eyes to a real need in the senior community. It is not just about caring for their physical bodies. It is about their quality of life as well, serving them mentally and emotionally, as well as physically.
Nursing a physical body includes bathing, assisting them to eat, change, go to the restroom, take their medications, and so much more. The challenge that many retirement facilities face is how to keep their senior residents active, and keep their quality of life high. To tackle these challenges, it meant creating a facility that was different right from its inception.
When I focus on an ideal residential facility, I want to stress quality care for both body and spirit. My ideal day for seniors involves music because I recognize its healing powers and the ability of music to help us connect deeply with our emotions. Music can speak to us and allow our bodies to express thoughts and feelings through our movements. It is often an unspoken language, but one that is so necessary to the human experience.
For residential facilities, each and every part of the day focuses on both a resident’s physical and mental wellbeing. Through music, I believe we reach that balance in a way that has never been achieved before.
Perhaps you are running a residential facility right now and want to incorporate these ideals and tools more fully, thus positively impacting the quality of life for your residents. On the other hand, you could be a family member looking for the right residential facility for your loved one. Regardless of the circumstances, I want you to understand my vision of a musical residential facility and what impact that has on the residents’ quality of life.
Along the way, I encourage you to take advantage of these tools to improve your quality of life right now, regardless of whether you are in a retirement facility or still in the process of finding your new home. Many of these ideas bring music into your everyday life, in a more substantial way, instead of just a musical concert once a week or once a month. Music doesn’t have to be for a special occasion, but a part of your meaningful everyday life.
As a senior who is dealing with the realities of aging, mental health is important. Depression and other issues can set in, but music can be a way to help them connect with others and deal with those challenges in a positive way. Working with my team, we can develop a musical program that fits your needs and provides encouragement as you manage your emotional challenges to help you maintain your emotional and mental health.
Music can be a key method to help keep your mental health intact as you age. For seniors, mental exercise is as important as physical exercise. Experts agree that there are few things that stimulate the brain the way that music can. Listening to music, and unique activities with music, can assist in reducing anxiety, blood pressure, and pain, as well as improving sleep quality, mood, mental alertness, and memory.
Our brains do a lot of work to understand the structure and relationship between notes. Even seniors who try to learn an instrument find themselves with improved memory and problem-solving abilities. The quality of life can improve with music, especially for seniors who are entering a different phase of their lives.
Granted, I still had to handle caring for the physical needs of the seniors I worked with as a medical professional, but I felt as if the music also allowed me to care for their mental and emotional needs as well as their physical ones. They could choose what soothed them or what reminded them of a treasured memory from the past; or a musical choice could be something that made them tap their toes and snap their fingers. It spoke to them on another level, and I saw the benefits firsthand.
When you can improve the memory and problem-solving abilities of seniors, you are helping them to stave off diseases that attack them mentally. Brain function can disappear without activities that encourage the brain to work and continue to make connections. The brain is a muscle that needs exercise, and music can be a way to exercise this unique muscle in your body.
Dementia is a disease that claims many of those who are aging, especially as it attacks the memory. Individuals lose their ability to stay connected in the present, and they also become disconnected from their past, unable to recognize loved ones or others. Music is a way to connect with these individuals, because music can often help them to recall memories or emotions, thus enhancing their mental performance, especially after they have spent time singing classic hits or numbers from musicals.
Music also is a powerful way to evoke emotion, which connects us to our memories. I am sure that you can think of a memory that brings up a specific emotion, perhaps joy or sorrow. When music is paired with everyday activities, patients can begin to develop a rhythm to assist them with recalling their memories related to that activity. There is another benefit, and that is the improvement of their cognitive ability over time. Even if there is not a major improvement, the use of music can help stave off further deterioration, or slow down that process. I want to be clear that while music is not a cure-all, it can provide so many benefits throughout our lives and retirement.
The reality is that as our brains degenerate, musical aptitude and appreciation are often the last two abilities to fall victim. Imagine being able to reach these individuals through music, allowing you to connect with the person, no matter what their mental state. These are just a few of the benefits for those dealing with these challenges, but the benefits of music for seniors do not end there.
The fact is that for seniors of any age, music can be a way to insert fun into their lives. Remember, part of aging is a recognition of the reality that these seniors are withdrawing and losing interest in what they formerly enjoyed. Music, particularly singing, can be a way to help them continue to engage and keep their brains stimulated, and give them the opportunity to have fun, despite any physical and mental limitations. It also provides a way to facilitate cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements. Essentially, you are contributing to their quality of life by engaging them mentally and physically.
Part of dealing with dementia and Alzheimer’s is the stress-induced agitation that can be difficult to manage. It can be difficult to connect with them, because you are not always able to reach across the disease to connect with them. Music can be a tool to help you in doing so, allowing you to assist them in calming down by reducing their stress level.
I continue to work in the mental and physical health fields. At the same time, I have been a musician since childhood. One of the things that I noticed during my time working in those fields is that I want to share happiness with seniors, giving them a better quality of life throughout their retirement. I show seniors that it is possible for them to do more, as part of my program involves them using their arms, legs, and voices. They can use their whole body, and since they are having fun, there is a lot of laughter involved as well.
It is an incredible feeling, to know that you have helped someone find the laughter and joy of life, especially if they are dealing with multiple chronic illnesses or chronic pain. There may be little that shifts them outside of the realm of their physical challenges, but music has that power.
The point of a musical retirement home is to help seniors continue to find fun and joy in their lives. Building music into the everyday activities can do this in a way that doesn’t have to be limited by chronic physical or mental conditions. Together, my staff and I focus on how seniors can benefit from music as part of their daily routine. However, it goes much deeper, as music can be a way to connect and discuss experiences from their lives, and allow them to share their wisdom with others. Lyrics can be a way to discuss strength, courage, overcoming challenging circumstances, and even dealing with loss. As seniors age, loss may be more frequent, creating a new challenge for them to address in maintaining their joy in life.
As a musician and registered nurse, I understand the connection between the brain and the heart. Your brain helps you to translate the music notes, but it is playing with your heart where you make the true emotional connections with individuals. I want to convey that emotional connection throughout my work with seniors.
I find that music is also a great way to manage stress and moods. Part of aging, unfortunately, is losing the ability to do things for yourself. Independence is often difficult to let go of, making stress and bad moods a reality. After all, you can imagine how difficult it would be to give up your independence as a young person, so take those thoughts and put yourself in the place of an aging loved one. Music can become a bridge for the gap between the challenges of aging and finding enjoyment of your life.
My musical retirement home is meant for people who love music, even if they weren’t musicians themselves. The idea is that throughout every step of the day, the first question is, “What do you want to listen to now?” It becomes intertwined with their day, allowing for those cognitive and physical benefits outside of a specific class or activity.
The best part is that those who are serving as caretakers have a musical background, allowing them to make suggestions to complement the tastes of the seniors they care for daily. Caretakers with a musical background will consider playing right away on their own instrument as part of the care plan for residents. In group settings, residents are developing interaction despite mis-consensus. In addition, seniors will have a musical committee to create lists of music for the group activities, such as meals. Every three to six months, the seniors serving on the music committee can change, allowing everyone to have their voices heard regarding the musical selections.
Activities throughout the day can also have a musical focus. For instance, imagine being able to take a class to learn more about music’s history or a genre, or to learn to play a musical instrument or to focus on learning a specific composition. These classes would tap into the musical abilities of those who are already working with the seniors. Throughout the process, connections between caregivers and seniors are built, which can be critical in uncovering needs that might not be as obvious to the naked eye, such as their mental health challenges.
For musicians, this is an opportunity to express their love of music while doing their job every day. After all, being a musician is a challenging career. However, in this environment, your musical talents are celebrated, because they contribute to the amazing atmosphere. It is about developing their skills, allowing them to create a fun and enjoyable musical environment for seniors. I want to move away from just having background music playing in the halls, to celebrating music in all of its amazing variations.
If you think that this type of care is what you and your loved ones need, then I invite you to read on and learn more about the benefits of music in a retirement home or care facility, and how it can positively benefit your loved ones as they age. The point is not to give up on them, but to keep them engaged despite the limitations that result from aging or chronic disease.
One aspect of my musical retirement home is that the premise can be spread to seniors, regardless of where they live. It is about taking charge of their lives and finding the enjoyment in this stage of their lives, just as they found in all the others.