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It is amazing to witness the power of music on the lives of seniors living with Alzheimer’s. Often, seniors will remember old times, exhibit powerful emotions, act playful and come to life. Recent study results show music can boost production of “happy hormones” such as melatonin, prolactin and more, resulting in elevated moods. In addition, the therapeutic use of music by board certified clinicians can reduce stress and agitation, as well as help with engagement and memory recall. Understanding the tremendous effects music has on memory care residents, Waltonwood Cotswold offers an integrated music therapy program in collaboration with Roots and Wings Music Therapy, local music therapy private practice, and Queens University of Charlotte. Two music therapy students from the Queens University of Charlotte Department of Art, Design and Music visit Waltonwood Cotswold under the supervision of their professor every Thursday and practice clinical skills and build competency through their clinical training program. During these therapy sessions, the students lead the residents through a playful yet extremely powerful program that connects memories, bypassing any cognitive impairments, while also providing social interaction. In addition to this intergenerational therapy session, a board-certified music therapist from Roots and Wings Music Therapy works with memory care residents throughout the year. This therapist uses evidence-informed techniques during bi-weekly sessions in order to maintain residents’ cognitive and physical skills while sustaining a social connection using music as a meaningful and accessible platform.

“Playing instruments or simply listening to music has numerous emotional, mental and physical benefits,” said Leah Nash, executive director at Waltonwood Cotswold. “Our residents really enjoy anything music related, and we believe that by combining music therapy sessions with the intergenerational aspect we create something powerful. The interaction not only helps the seniors, but the students also experience tremendous benefits. We are thankful for the relationship we have with Roots and Wings Music Therapy. They introduced us to Queens University of Charlotte and helped us create this meaningful partnership.”

One of the many activities the seniors engage in during the music therapy session with the students is the co-creation of a musical product. The students hand residents instruments and encourage them to participate in a song creation. The song creation activity gives them a sense of community and shows them skills they might have never used before, like playing an instrument. During the other part of the session, the students have the Waltonwood Cotswold residents listen to music from a time when they were younger, which helps bring back memories and emotions. The students learn these professional techniques in their academic and clinical courses at Queens University of Charlotte and they practice implementing them at the senior living community.

“The weekly music therapy sessions at Waltonwood are 45 minutes long and are part of a clinical training program for our students, who get graded on their treatment planning, facilitation skills, and musicality,” said Varvara Pasiali, Ph.D., MT-BC, associate professor and interim director of music therapy for Queens University of Charlotte. “The sessions are sweet and fun to watch, and they are also enjoyable for the students and the residents. There are endless amounts of activities the seniors can engage in, and we are grateful to have our students showcase and better their skills at the senior living community.”

Studies show that loneliness plays a significant role in cognitive decline, which is why the senior living community provides daily activities for the residents to engage in to ensure that positive social interactions are happening around the community. Waltonwood Cotswold offers comprehensive and quality care for seniors living with dementia, and their individualized care increases the residents’ quality of life by supporting their physical, emotional, and intellectual needs. 

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