For many residents at Poet’s Walk in Cedar Park, the facility is a community and a home. Built in 2017, Poet’s Walk incorporates various tailored therapies into its programs for its 36 residents including music therapy, which has been proven in the medical and science communities to immensely improve the holistic health of seniors and memory care patients.
“Music is pretty central to all of our residents and staff so we get a pretty great response from it,” said Activities Coordinator Marcy Wintle.” A lot of times, the songs our visiting musicians pick are the older generation songs and the residents love them. They light up and sing along and we know it helps them. We want for the music to touch their souls and make them feel happy and euphoric.”
“When the music gets going everyone wants to be involved, whether they’re up and moving or contributing from their seat,” said Sandy Harris, Director of Resident Engagement at Poet’s Walk Cedar Park. “It’s important to look at research and learn about the effectiveness of music therapy, but to personally see the joy it brings to each resident’s face, then you truly understand it.”
Resident Connie Blake has been a musician since she was five years old and gives lessons to her fellow companions at Poet’s Walk.
“I love everything about music: degrees of rhythm, composers, singing and playing piano,” she said. “I started performing professionally in high school. After that, I was performing in New York City. That’s how I met my husband, Ken. I entertained at the Driskill Hotel in downtown Austin for 14 years. Music has always been a big part of my life.”
The effects of music therapy can reduce stress and improve a senior’s memory. Hearing a song from the past can help bring back special experiences with family and friends, which is especially helpful for seniors with dementia. “Different songs will resonate with different people,” said David Melton, Director of Resident Engagement at Poet’s Walk Round Rock. “At Poet’s Walk, we speak to family members to learn our residents’ favorite and most sentimental songs. We then create a personalized playlist for each resident to help them throughout the day.”
“I love music,” said resident Florence “Florie” Brenner. “I love all kinds but I think jazz is the most fun. It just makes me feel great all the time.”
Music encourages socialization, as the residents at Poet’s Walk often bond over their favorite genre, like smooth jazz or country. And those who get up and dance are improving blood flow, stretching their muscles and improving coordination.
It is also the perfect complement to other activities at Poet’s Walk.
Fitness classes, like Tai Chi and yoga, are more interactive and exciting with a song to dance along to. It encourages residents who would otherwise be intimidated of joining in on a class or exercise program with which they are unfamiliar. Yet, not everything about the music therapy program at Poet’s Walk takes place near the dance floor. Residents who struggle with falling asleep are often soothed with the sounds of classical music.
Team members at Poet’s Walk will often leave relaxing music on, lowering resident’s blood pressure and decreasing anxiety. It is a simple, natural method to start a restful evening, before turning to harmful and habit-forming sleep medication.
Visiting musician India Taylor said she has performed at care facilities in the greater Austin area for fifteen years.
“I like getting people to sing along and participate because I know that it’s good for them and their memory,” said Taylor. “They respond to the music. It makes them more social. They will clap along and recognize the rhythms.”
“I love when the families of our residents visit during our music time,” said Melton. “Often they join in dancing with their loved one — and the team and I sometimes get in the mix as well. It’s truly an emotional experience watching from the corner, knowing that if only just for a minute, music heals all.”