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Senior Centers

Arts for Healing provides services for residents and day program participants in Senior Centers. Trained Music Therapists work with groups and with individuals as part of their overall therapeutic plan. Music Therapy has been found to be most effective in decreasing the frequency of agitated and aggressive behaviors for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and related dementias, as well as being a strong catalyst for interaction and responsive behavior among this population. The evidence behind using Music Therapy in Senior Centers shows positive changes in mood and emotional states. Music has also been used in non-pharmacological management of pain and discomfort, while providing structure which promotes rhythmic and continuous movement or vocal fluency as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation. When anxiety and stress are reduced, social interaction increases with caregivers and families, leading to an improved quality of life for every individual.


Waveny Care Center for Seniors

Arts for Healing conducts music therapy groups for seniors as an outreach program at the Waveny Care Center in New Canaan, Connecticut. Music therapy groups include the center's residents in the Special Care Unit, Adult Day Program, and Assisted Living Program. The music therapy groups are designed to accommodate the broad range of needs of the center's residents, from those who are in the latter stages of Dementia and Alzheimer's Disease, and those who are coping with daily living with the onset of various geriatric conditions.

Special Care Unit music therapy groups

The residents in the Special Care Unit are in the latter stages of the debilitating conditions of Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia. The use of vocal and song improvisation, as well as music listening engage residents in musical experiences. When residents' physical condition and their effective use of language as communication have decreased significantly, spontaneous vocalizations, movement, and gestures become the primary means of communication and relationship through the music. The connections between residents and the music therapist happen in musical moments within improvisations, piano compositions or popular songs. Residents' vocalizations, gestures, facial expressions, and body movements become the creative inspirations of the therapist's musical choices and improvisations.

Assisted Living and Adult Day Program music therapy groups

For the residents in the Assisted Living and Adult Day Program at the Waveny Center, improvisational music therapy groups allow residents to find their individual and unique ways into a musical experience, to use the music to express themselves, and to relate to one another. The group members use percussion and melodic instruments such as drums, bells, xylophones, and their voices to spontaneously create music with the therapist. At the piano, the therapist supports, enhances, responds, and integrates the members' music. The members' sounds, musical impulses, and ideas determine the aesthetic character and reflect the dynamics of the group in music. Mutuality and human contact are beacons for music–making in the group setting.

The approach is client-centered as well as music-centered. Each member's musical contribution is regarded as vital and becomes part of a whole. Whatever the degree of impairment or psychological difficulty, every resident has the innate capacity to be part of the creative process. The therapist works to render music-making accessible to the client, through musical and practical considerations, and always through an open presence and regard toward the group. Through the music, the therapist works to foster group cohesion, guiding and supporting each member's self-expression in relationship to the group. Individual experiences in music are recognized by the group members through music's universal properties which resonate with all human experience. In group work, contrasting musical expressions can co-exist and interact simultaneously, and create the ever-shifting forms and qualities of the music.

Clients who have a diminished capacity to communicate, come together in a creative process to produce a continuous and audible art form, through which they can hear themselves and others, and experience a sense of immediate awareness and human connection. Depression, confusion, anger, irritability, anxiety, emotional difficulties associated with change or loss, and an impaired capacity to communicate and relate to others, are among a number of presenting issues for persons living with Alzheimer's or dementia. As part of the healing process for these clients, participation in an improvisational music therapy group fosters:

  • Better awareness and concentration
  • Enhances interest levels and social interaction
  • Improves memory and recall
  • Happier outlook on life and higher self-esteem
  • Increases mobility and coordination
  • Diminishes pain and improves recovery time
  • Reduces tension and promotes relaxation
  • Maintains self-esteem and effectiveness with a more balanced sense of emotional expression
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