By Joan Klasson
As a puppeteer and therapy-dog owner, I visit senior citizens’ facilities, both private and subsidized. I meet many folks who suffer from dementia or memory loss.
One such person is "Agnes" who communicates only through song. Her conversation is one sort of melody after another. Judging by the songs, she must be a retired elementary school music teacher.
Another time, at a different facility, "Molly" was having a fit. She was protesting the staff wouldn't let her go home. She felt it was time to go home. And she wasn’t having part of this anymore.
“This is where you live,” a staff member told her. I could tell she was agitated.
Then Molly looked at me, and I looked at her. And almost as if on cue, we both began to sing: Show Me the Way to go Home / I’m tired and I want to go to bed / I had a little drink about an hour ago / and it’s gone right to my head.
Singing that song diffused the tension, and she calmed down. This is the effect music can have on the people with agitation.
Spreading Joy to Seniors Through Puppets and Music
But not all people consider fun as an essential part of life. In their eyes, fun is not as important as, say, food or clothing. Medical care, housing, and self-maintenance all rank higher than fun. Before anybody can have some fun, those need should be taken care of first, leaving fun to get lost in the shuffle.
You all can imagine the many health benefits of laughter, which is a by-product of fun. Laughing lowers blood pressure, reduces stress hormones, and increases muscle flexion. Chuckling and Guffawing increases blood circulation and makes us more resistant to infection. Laughter just makes everyone feel happy!