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Rock on at the Davey Home!

Songs for Seniors program enables residents to relive old memories, break through walls of dementia
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20180416-Davey Home Songs for Seniors program-DT
F.J. Davey Home residents Jean Hayes and Wayne Horner, front row, with F.J. Davey Home activity aides Marissa Schliephacke, Tricia Francella, Jessica Schmidt, Jennifer Mulvihill, Karly Parsons and Susanne Musso-Rains with Amanda McBain, Plan A Algoma recruitment and marketing manager, at centre, Apr. 16, 2018. Darren Taylor/SooToday

Music is good for the soul, especially for those affected by age.

A new local program called Songs for Seniors, launched by Plan A Algoma and administered by trained F.J. Davey Home staff, is bringing back memories and putting smiles on the faces of the long term care home’s residents, particularly those affected with dementia.  

The program involves donations of gently used iPods, MP3s and iPhones (donations of headphones are also appreciated) to Plan A Algoma’s office, located on the upper floor at 527 Queen St. E., or directly to the F.J. Davey Home at 733 Third Line East.

Family members inform Davey Home activity aides what types of music and favourite songs their loved ones enjoy, then the staff program those tunes for them to listen to on the donated electronic devices.

The staff retain them and loan them out to residents who request them.

“Residents might have their own individual CD players and collections of music, and we do have big group music programs, but with this program, it’s nice for the residents, with the iPods, to actually get music they personally enjoy, for residents who are not cognitively engaged in group programs here at the Davey Home,” explained Susanne Musso-Rains, F.J. Davey Home activity aide. 

“It’s nice for them to wear the earphones with an iPod, listen to music and elicit their memories. They’ll open their eyes, they’ll move around, they’ll tap their hands on their wheelchairs… it’s wonderful to see.”

The Davey Home staff has worked hard to ensure the recently launched Songs for Seniors program is a success.

Davey Home resident Wayne Horner was wearing his headphones and rocking on as SooToday visited the home’s lounge, facing Third Line East.

Wayne named legendary 1950s rocker Jerry Lee Lewis as one of his favourite rock and roll performers, adding he doesn’t mind new country either.

“Jerry Lee Lewis will do it for you every time. He knew how to fill a stage,” Wayne said.

What sort of memories does listening to old rock bring back for Wayne?

“Sweethearts,” he replied.

“My wife passed away last Christmas. She was sick for quite a while. I took care of her, but she passed. Christmas was a very sad time of year for me, but I remember the good times. My wife was a real lady, she was gorgeous.”

“I like country music, old and new. Anne Murray’s my favourite older country music singer, Billy Ray Cyrus is my favourite new one,” said Davey Home resident Jean Hayes.

“I find music is really relaxing. I like listening to it while I’m doing my arts and crafts. I listen to it quite a bit,” said Jean, adding it brings back good memories for her.

Jean said her favourite Anne Murray tune is ‘Could I Have This Dance,’ a favourite at weddings.

Both Wayne and Jean said listening to music beats watching TV.

“Some of that TV today is just terrible, but Rock and Roll is here to stay! You know it!” Wayne exclaimed enthusiastically.

“It (the Songs for Seniors program) also helps in verbal communication with us. Often it opens up a gateway in the secured unit where dementia is quite settled in for the residents there,” said Karly Parsons, activity aide.

“Often a resident will put the music on and you’ll hear them sing word for word every hymn, and it’s good to know ‘yes, they are still there, they are still a person,’ and we come in to help provide that specific music for them on the iPods so they can have those clear moments where they are ‘there’ and it’s really, really nice to see,” Parsons said.

“I’ve seen residents have facial grimacing from pain and just feeling uncomfortable, and the second I put their music on, their grimacing stops and it’s peace for them. It’s very therapeutic for them. It’s very rewarding to see,” said Marissa Schliephacke, activity aide.

“One lady was completely non-verbal, she wouldn’t speak at all, but when she heard ‘You are my Sunshine’ she would sing every word of it and hold your hand. It just ignited something in her mind and she knew every word,” said Tricia Francella, activity aide. 

An organization known as Music & Memory, launched in the U.S. in 2010 and spreading internationally, was the inspiration for Plan A Algoma’s Songs for Seniors initiative.

Plan A Algoma is a Sudbury-based healthcare staffing agency, which opened an office in Sault Ste. Marie in January 2017.

“We just started getting the ball rolling about a couple of weeks ago and we started asking community members for donations, because everyone has their own musical taste and their own memories attached to those songs… it reminds them of weddings and important people in their lives, it really makes a difference,” said Amanda McBain, Plan A Algoma recruitment and marketing manager. 

“I can see and hear Wayne enjoying himself over there…it really does put a smile on my face. I’m really glad that we can organize something for them,” McBain said, praising the Davey Home staff.  

“It’s amazing we were able to get donations (of iPods) because funding for long term care isn’t always there for these kinds of things, it’s more for direct personal care than anything else of course, so when we heard about Plan A Algoma willing to donate to us…it’s so nice,” Musso-Rains said.

Eight devices have been donated so far and donations of more are needed and welcome, with a view to expanding the Songs for Seniors program to other Sault nursing homes (the Davey Home currently having the most residents of any local nursing home, at approximately 370).

“The more donations (of devices) the better, please,” Musso-Rains smiled, adding families are very supportive and enthusiastic about Songs for Seniors.

“It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a village to care for seniors,” she said.