Over the last few months I have been fortunate enough to drum with groups of older people within various assisted living settings. They have been great fun and some of them have really got into it, although it is at a much gentler pace which is always good for the ears. It has been an education for me and also for them.
I start with a mixture of various shakers and some gentle warm up games to get us going, followed by drums ( A mixture of Remo Tubano’s, Djembe’s on stands as well as Frame and Buffalo drums ) with the choice to use their hands or have the use of a mallet, some old music hall songs, some from WW2 and alot of banter has for me made a really enjoyable experience. I also use a mixture of parts from the Remo HealthRhythms protocol with some adaptions as well as some ideas taken from Kat Fultons DVD ” Drumify Dance With Your Hands ” which offers ideas on working with the elderly community. I usually end up sometimes by design and sometimes by accident with all the staff joining in as well and for that short moment emergencies aside the whole centre is in that one place, at that one time, making music together smiling and having fun. The sessions themselves bring people together, provide very gentle co-ordination exercises and an opportunity to bring the community together to bond, make music, smile, have fun and feel energised.
It is also scientifically proven that group drumming and music making can play an effective part in reducing burn out and improving mood states in long term care workers and residents. Also building strong bonds between the two groups ( See www.remo.com/portal/pages/hr/research/Employee+Burnout.html ) Recreational Music-Making: A Cost-Effective Group Interdisciplinary Strategy for Reducing Burnout and Improving Mood States in Long-Term Care Workers by Barry Bittman, MD, Karl T. Bruhn, Christine Stevens, MSW, MT-BC, James Westengard, and Paul O. Umbach, MA.
At the close of one of the sessions at a senior living centre in Surrey an elderly gentlemen came up to me and we were chatting away, when he said that it was the most fun he had had for along time. He recounted that they get people who come along and play piano for them or sing at them for an hour or so, but this was one of the first times that he could remember actually joining in something and making something together with everyone else. He also said that I should come again in a couple of monthes time because they would have all forgotten about it. Another elderly lady now blind recounted to me her stories of living in Africa before the war and some of things she used to get up to. Just such a great experience.