When Romany Flanderka created a playlist of her mother’s favourite Jazz music she suspected it would have a powerful impact on her.
“Mum has always been involved with music – it’s been a large part of her life,” Romany says. “She grew up in a musical family and was a music teacher. When mum first popped on the headphones to hear her individual playlist, I thought of her saying I’m home.”
Just like 91 year-old Edna Piera, music is bringing joy to many aged care residents at Villa Maria Catholic Homes and evoking memories in a way that only music can do.
Earlier this year, VMCH teamed up with the Music and the Brain Foundation to launch the ‘Encore’ personalised music program across 10 VMCH aged care residences. The Melbourne-based foundation is a community-based charity which promotes music as a therapy in the prevention, treatment and control of brain related disorders.
“Music is an extremely powerful tool,” says the Foundation’s Monica Cashin. “It can enhance creativity, learning, aid healing, decrease pain levels and increase optimism. For people living with dementia, it can also help to connect them to the present and to recover fond memories.”
With support from their families and VMCH staff members, aged care residents can create a playlist on an MP3 player, iPod, iPad or tablet device, and listen to it via headphones at their leisure. Bespoke all-in-one headsets are currently in production and will soon be available to residents, making the process of listening to their music even easier.
The ‘Encore’ program can also connect families and offer intergenerational benefits. “All generations have the opportunity to be involved in the collation of music for their loved one,” says Monica. “This shared experience can help members of the younger generation learn more about their elders and, in so doing, act as a conversation point for everyone involved.”
The benefits of the ‘Encore’ music program on Edna are very apparent to her daughter. “Mum seems happier and more relaxed when she listens to her music. It’s given her a better quality of life. I would definitely encourage others to do this for their loved ones in care or with dementia.”
VMCH’s Manager of Pastoral Care Services, Bridget O’Shannassy, agrees in the positive power of the program.
“Seeing the difference personalized music can make to someone is amazing. Music can help to brighten the soul, and to see a smile or tap of a foot means it’s working.”