Steamboat Springs While music plays a powerful role in the lives of many people, research shows it can be particularly impactful for people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
Proponents of music therapy for memory suggest music can shift a person’s mood, stimulate memory or boost cognitive function, and staff members at Casey’s Pond Senior Living are quick to agree.
“Music brings those memories back and actually transforms them back to when they were a pilot or a model or a dancer,” said Kris Osborn, director of nursing for the Doak Walker House at Casey’s Pond. “Music harmonizes them again.”
The desire to bring music to residents at Casey’s Pond has brought about a unique partnership between the senior living community and Strings Music Festival, which began in 2013 and led to five live Strings performances on site at Casey’s Pond this year.
During a David Gonzalez show earlier this summer, a group of residents began singing along to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” something special for the residents and caregivers.
Health and Wellness Director Melissa Bray, who specifically works in The Harbor, Casey’s Pond’s memory support neighborhood, said that, when someone has dementia, their long-term memory often remains intact but is difficult to access.
“Music actually stimulates that part of the brain,” Bray said.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, even patients who have stopped recognizing names and faces can still remember and sing songs.
Bray — who worked for the Doak Walker Care Center at Yampa Valley Medical Center before the opening of Casey’s Pond — said she remembers once meeting a couple from Kansas who were very reserved, normally, but loved to listen to western swing musician Bob Wills.
“Once we played the music, she would open up,” Bray said of the woman.
The partnership between Casey’s Pond and Strings is mutually beneficial for the residents and the musicians, who are often recent graduates familiarizing themselves with public performance, according to Katie Carroll, director of artistic administration and education for Strings.
“Casey’s Pond is such a forgiving and accepting and welcoming audience,” Carroll said. “It’s kind of amazing to watch.”
Bray and Osborn said that, in addition to the Strings shows, other musicians have played at the senior living community, and there is are pianos in three of the community’s neighborhoods. Some residents also play music on their own.
“It’s amazing when someone can’t remember their daily tasks, but you put them in front of a piano, and they remember,” Bray said.
Apart from helping those with memory issues, music can be relaxing for all residents, including some who are often restless, according to Lindsey Simbeye, the community’s sales and marketing director.
Simbeye said she hopes to get the word out that concerts at Casey’s Pond are open to the public, and people in the community who don’t live at Casey’s Pond — but might be battling Alzheimer’s, dementia or other effects of aging — are encouraged to attend.
“These concerts are open and available to them,” Simbeye said.
Carroll said Strings is working with Casey’s Pond to increase the number of concerts offered at the senior living community in the future.
To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow