Therapy is Music to Memory Care Resident’s Ears

At RiverWoods Senior Living Community, music is an important part of the routine for residents in Memory Care. Research on music and its positive effects on dementia and Alzheimer patients prompted Albright Care Services to provide music programming twice a week at the Memory Care Residence.

Dr. Karen Zerenconsky of Elysburg visits with Memory Care residents at RiverWoods, sharing music, dance and breathing exercises. She said, “New research shows that musical perception, musical memory and musical emotion can survive long after other forms of memory and cognitive function have disappeared.” Zerenconsky explained listening to familiar music can activate the brain and elicit pleasurable responses, such as smiling or moving to the beat, even when communication is lost.

Zerenconsky is a concert pianist and has been actively teaching for over 35 years. She started at a young age visiting senior living facilities to play for the residents. In the past 15 years, Zerenconsky became increasingly interested in brain research, specifically its connection with music. Zerenconsky recently taught at the Bucknell Lifelong Learning Center on the benefits of music for people afflicted with certain types of neural degenerative diseases.

She is now providing a twice-a-week program for the Memory Care residents at RiverWoods, which began on September 4. The one and a half hour session consists of 30 minutes of music and activity for the residents, followed by individual assessments. The music is carefully selected to ensure effectiveness and interactive activities are planned, such as arm movements, foot tapping and swaying.

Zerenconsky engages the residents by not only dancing and clapping with them, but also asking them questions throughout the session. She asked residents what color they thought of while they closed their eyes and listened to the sound of a flowing stream. She explained, “Not only can they hear the water, but they can see what it may look like, bringing a color into their mind.”

About 15 residents from RiverWoods Memory Care residence participated in the first session of the music program. They will meet with Dr. Zerenconsky on Tuesdays and Thursdays, with each session featuring different music and activities. In the near future, art therapy will also be incorporated in the programming.