Harmony Garden Music Therapy— Enriching the Lives of Older Adults
Music therapy has been a welcome addition to Life Enrichment programming for residents at Kresge Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center (Kresge Center), located on United Methodist Retirement Communities’ (UMRC) flagship campus in Chelsea. Like so many older adults, Kresge Center residents have been impacted by the ongoing restrictions and safety measures in place for coronavirus.
Thanks to funding from the Nursing Home Facility Enrichment Program from Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS), residents of Kresge Center have the opportunity to participate in music therapy sessions offered by Harmony Garden Music Therapy Services. Founded in 2006, by Jaime Lawrence, a Jackson, Michigan native, Harmony Garden is the only music therapy service in Jackson. In the 15 years since opening, Harmony Garden has grown to a team of five music therapists, working within the community and beyond.
Jaime understands the impact that music can have on someone’s life. “Music opens you up for communication, even if for a brief moment. Music therapy helps people become the best versions of themselves, whether it is an older adult living with dementia who engages in a memory, or a child opening up out of their shell.”
Bekah Moilanen, one of Harmony Garden’s music therapists, has been working with Kresge Center residents since October, 2020 Bekah realized her passion for working with older adults when she began working with hospice patients. After founding a music therapy program for adults with special needs at her church, Bekah returned to Harmony Garden Music Therapy.
“Working with this population is my passion,” Bekah shares. “Older adults have such a rich experience. They can connect to music and connect to their past. Many participants recall where they used to listen to the songs, or connect them to positive feelings and are able to relive joyful times in their lives. It is a blessing for me to be there and see them being their authentic selves.”
Kresge Center residents are eager to participate in music therapy sessions with Bekah. Her work in our Memory Care household is one of the things she enjoys most. Music can help residents connect and remember. “Their eyes light up when they know the songs. One resident living with dementia, who rarely speaks, joyfully participated in the Christmas therapy session and said ‘that was my mom’s favorite Christmas song!’” Bekah says.
Bekah and the Kresge Center Life Enrichment team, had to get creative for group music therapy sessions. Bekah conducts sessions in the hallway, while residents participate safely from their doorways. Music therapy helps residents emerge from their shells. During sessions, residents sing along and encourage others to join in as well. Some residents connect with the music so much, they are able to make song requests. Others who prefer not to sing, can participate by playing drums and maracas. Bekah and Harmony Garden are grateful to work with Kresge residents, especially during this challenging time. It is rewarding to be able to connect with our older adults, to be a support for them.
Kresge Center’s Life Enrichment team members have noticed changes in residents since implementing music therapy sessions. At the start of the program, some of the residents would sit quietly, listening to the music. Over the weeks, they have started requesting songs, singing along, and playing instruments. “They look forward to it each week,” says Tracie Clark, Life Enrichment Assistant at Kresge Center. “Music therapy is a form of socialization for residents, and it lifts their spirits.”
Not only are music therapy sessions a social opportunity for residents, but it also improves their moods, putting a smile on their faces. They enjoy interacting with Bekah and enjoy singing along. Residents talk about their love of music and often reminisce on a song’s personal meaning for them.
Kresge Life Enrichment team member, Sarah Millar appreciates Harmony Garden’s music therapy services and the positive impact on residents. “Music therapy touches people in so many different ways,” says Sarah. “It provides an outlet for creative expression, reminiscing, joy, and meaningful experiences. By utilizing Bekah’s talents weekly, music therapy is another tool in our toolbox to meet the residents’ ever changing needs.”
To learn more about UMRC’s Kresge Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, visit our website: https://umrcph.com/kresge-healthcare-rehabilitation-center/ or call 734.475.7310.
National Skilled Nursing Care Week is May 9 through 15. To celebrate, we will highlight stories throughout May of the outstanding care that our dedicated team members of UMRC & Porter Hills provide for both long-term residents and short-term rehabilitation guests requiring round-the-clock care.