Did you know that April 30 is International Day of Jazz? In November 2011, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) officially designated April 30 as International Jazz Day in order to highlight jazz and its diplomatic role of uniting people in all corners of the globe.(JazzDay) International Jazz Day brings together communities, schools, artists, historians, academics, and jazz enthusiasts all over the world to celebrate and learn about jazz and its roots, future and impact; raise awareness of the need for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding; and reinforce international cooperation and communication.

Woman Playing Violin

Helping the Mind Move

What a great opportunity to discuss the important role music can play in the well-being and quality of life for all people, especially seniors. According to Today’s Geriatric Medicine, an online periodical of best-practice resources and news for professionals in elder care, music can actually make the mind “move.” The case study sites Dr. Kimmo Lehtonen, PdD, professor of education at the University of Turku (Finland) and a clinical music therapist for more than 25 years. Dr. Lehtonen has been using music therapy to promote memory and a sense of self in the treatment of older adults with dementia. (Schaeffer)

What is Music Therapy?

Music therapy is a target-oriented and purposeful activity during which therapists work with individuals using musical expression and the memories, feelings, and sensations it evokes. (Schaeffer) According to Music Therapy in Dementia Treatment – Recollection Through Sound “[Music therapy] has been found to be particularly beneficial for older adults with various types of dementia.” Dr. Lehtonen explains “Music therapy has many faces. With older adults, I mainly use old wartime songs, which seem to bring many lively memories to their minds. Music has a close relationship with unconscious emotions, which are activated by musical movement. To me, music represents a microcosmos which has a close relationship to our inner feelings. These feelings are so strong, they’re meaningful even if patients cannot remember who they are.”

Man Playing Piano

Making a Difference for Seniors

John Carpente, founder and executive director of the Rebecca Center for Music Therapy in New York and a licensed, board-certified music therapist also adds to the article, describing how his music therapy program for older adults a much-needed social and emotional outlet. “Meeting individually and within a group, elder clients express themselves and recall the memories that music sparks and stimulates. By listening to live music and being involved in live music-making experiences, a greater quality of life is possible.” This, he believes, empowers clients to emerge from the isolation imposed by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. (Schaeffer)

Using the Power of Music in Everyday Experiences

While you or your loved one may not have direct access to a licensed music therapist, there are ways you can facilitate positive experiences with music. Work with friends, family, or even your in-home care professional to explore genres and songs that were popular during your loved one’s early life and create playlists for them to enjoy. Ask them if they remember the song, what it means to them, and how they feel while listening to it. It not only opens up a whole new way to communicate with loved ones, it might also unlock some really wonderful and interesting stories you can help pass down in your own family.

Take some time today to share music with your loved ones and remember to celebrate International Jazz Day every April 30!