When Peace Village residents gathered for the first “Music and Conversation” event in May, Life Enrichment Supervisor Melissa O’Neil knew they “had quite a hit”.
Jim Contorno, Life Enrichment Coordinator agrees. “Residents were singing, dancing, tapping their toes,” Jim said. “Everyone was happy and upbeat at the end of the meeting, and they were already excited about next week.”
“Music and Conversation” is a new activity at Peace Village, designed specifically to inspire a mood of positivity and joy. Two different groups meet weekly; residents bring several song titles that fit a theme Jim has given them the week before. The songs are then pulled into the room’s sound system. “YouTube has never disappointed me,” says Jim, “even for some really obscure songs.” At the end of the meeting, Jim assigns a new topic for the following week.
Topics are wide and varied, including weather, summertime and even food. The topic of locations brought song suggestions of Penny Lane, New York New York and even Lake Shore Drive by Aliotta Haynes Jeremiah. The group very much enjoyed when the topic of “girl’s names” brought the suggestion of A Boy Named Sue from one clever resident.
Nancy Bohne, also a Life Enrichment Coordinator, says her group enjoys their “homework” of thinking of songs to fit the topic that Jim sets each week. “These topics have provoked memories of school days, family picnics, days at the beach, first dates, first loves,” Nancy says. “Music opens up new doors for communication, and positive memories of where you were when you first heard it and what each song means to you. Many residents talk of Friday night sock hops, roller rinks, dancing with spouses, loved ones and old friends – honestly, we could probably do “Music and Conversation” all day if we could.”
While Nancy’s group tends to mix conversation and music equally, Jim’s groups focuses on the music. “Our topic of TV songs drew a lot of liveliness. Most people know these songs, so nearly everyone was able to sing along,” he said. “During one meeting, we had over half of our members up and dancing.”
Jim chuckled, “Residents will be so excited about an idea, they will have a difficult time waiting their turn. But we make sure each participant gets a song played.” The music selections are just as varied as the residents. “We have some residents who are in their mid 70’s – and we have one lady who is 100.” While 40’s and 50’s songs seem to be the most popular, many residents suggest songs from the 60’s and 70’s. In fact, one resident, who played the accordion in a polka band, has recommended songs by the group Chicago.
Nancy says that one of the most memorable and moving topics was religious-spiritual music. The group decided to explore the hymn Ave Maria in depth and listened to several minutes of 4 different versions performed by various artists. Their favorite version was performed by the Italian singer Andrea Bocelli. “It was a beautiful day, just a perfect day for those types of songs. There wasn’t much talking that day. We just listened to the music and enjoyed the moment that we were experiencing.”
“Music and Conversation” has a powerful impact on residents, who even discuss the topics with family. Jim says one resident was sharing her excitement about an upcoming topic with her daughter and the daughter also “got so excited, she emailed suggestions too! Our groups have a real passion for this concept.”
Participants leave “Music and Conversation” feeling upbeat and merry, looking forward to next week. Jim says, “This activity has a real impact on our residents. It really gives all of us a warm and fuzzy feeling.”