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Intergenerational music therapy unites toddlers and seniors at Guelph nursing home (10 photos)

'I don’t know what’s better, seeing the look on the babies’ faces or on the honorary grandmas and grandpas'

Music and some super cute toddlers are being used in an intergenerational music therapy program at a Guelph long-term care facility.

It sees moms bring in their young children to share time, space and music with seniors, benefiting both sides of the age spectrum.

The eight-week program is taking place at The Village of Riverside Glen’s long-term care facility on Woodlawn Road.

Thursday saw three toddlers, all under one year of age, playing and socializing with a group of around a dozen seniors.

A thoroughly enjoyable time was had by all.

“I loved every minute of it,” said Dorene, a resident of Riverside Glen after playing, singing, laughing and even getting down on the floor to interact with the youngsters.

“They remind me of my grandchildren,” she said.

While there is a strong social element to the program, with young and old benefiting from one another’s station in life, there is more to it than playing with instruments and singing familiar songs.

"The goal of the program is to enhance the quality of life for the residents that live here,” said Kathy Lott, who created and runs the program, on contract at the location from Expressions Music Therapy Services.

"To provide them with an intentional social interaction that is meaningful to them with children and their parents. People that they would not normally see.”

It has social benefits but also provides cognitive stimulation, Lott said.

“Many times, people with various forms of dementia have part of their brain that remains intact that still responds to music,” Lott said.

“We’re using music to stimulate the brain.”

Music therapy is a science, with training offered at four universities in Canada, including Wilfrid Laurier in Waterloo.

Trained therapists used music and musical elements to promote, maintain and restore mental, physical, emotional and spiritual health.

It is used in long term care situations like the one Thursday with seniors, but also in school settings, prisons, grief therapy, palliative care and a host of other areas.

Familiar nursery rhymes are sung, as are songs from the 1930s and 1940s that many of the seniors remember.

“It’s about being very much in the moment with the music and with a beautiful child,” Lott said.

Carrie Perkins, Director of Recreation and Volunteer Services at Riverside Glen, said the program started at one of their other locations last November.

“It sparks life,” Perkins said of the program.

“You see a progression through the session as everyone warms up to one another. It’s a unique program that has so many positives to it,” Perkins said.

The program works for young and old, said mom Ashley Schadenberg, who brought her daughter Gwen to Thursday’s session after seeing a poster at the early years centre they go to.

“As soon as we heard about it I just knew we wanted to participate,” Schadenberg said.

“It’s just such a great intergenerational bringing people together. I don’t know what’s better, seeing the look on the babies’ faces or on the honorary grandmas and grandpas.”