At the Jewish Home, the Beat Goes On
The rhythm of daily life at the Jewish Home makes it a warm and nurturing place to be, particularly for residents with Alzheimer's disease or other forms of dementia. The Home is also full of actual rhythm— opportunities for those residents to access the therapeutic benefits of music making.
This past March, in celebration of spring's arrival, the Home invited residents in its Goldenberg·Ziman Special Care Center and Max Factor Family Foundation Nursing Building to participate in a special drumming circle. The annual event enables residents to shake off the doldrums of winter and create new sounds that lift their spirits and fill them with positive energy. This year's event was a huge success, attracting a crowd of approximately 40 Eisenberg Village residents, family members, and private companions for a session of joyous singing, drumming, and fun.
"We collaborate with a nonprofit group that brings in professionals to help guide our seniors on the drums," says Sandra Valdovinos, activities team leader at Eisenberg. "The idea is to use the drums to beat down feelings of stress and isolation, and to float on the music to a place of acceptance and contentment. When you're there to witness it, it's amazing how effective and powerful it can be."
Staff from the nonprofit brought a wide variety of instruments for residents to use, from shakers in the shape of fruit to makeshift drums seniors can attach to their walkers. For about an hour, they taught the residents to master the beat, keep time, and let loose with whatever they were feeling.
"The residents always enjoy this event, which helps their bodies, souls, and minds," Sandra says. "It's also a wonderful way for them to hone fine motor and cognitive skills, and as they move around, to escape into that moment in time."
After having the drumming circle experience this year, residents expressed their pleasure. "It was uplifting, spiritual, and fun, and it brought back memories from when I was a child," notes one. Another says he "loved the sound of it, hearing the drummers' voices." A daughter who accompanied her ailing parent to the event may have put it best: "The smile on my dad's face was worth more than a million dollars."
According to Sandra, who has worked at the Jewish Home for 11 years, the drumming circle event has been going on for at least that long. "It was happening when I got here, so I've seen the benefits over time," she says. "Every group of residents that participates gets something meaningful out of it."