Heart to Heart: Music and Movement for Seniors with Dementia

How curious, poignant, and profound that when all is taken from us: our professions, our routines, our sense of ourselves, perhaps even knowledge of our own names, we still possess our deep capacity to respond to music: melody, rhythm, harmony, song. Why is this? Perhaps it is because our very being is music.

Music is at the heart of our spirit and the essence of our soul. Music soothed and excited us as children and can accompany us, like a faithful friend, throughout our entire lives. It is perhaps ironic that those who have lost so many memories of their life and identity have, unknowingly, gifted me with the revival and expansion of my own life and love of music and songs.

When you give the gift of a song, you are giving a living gift. For individuals with dementia, this living gift has the potential to unlock, and even outlast, one’s recollection of one’s life story. If songs are what we are left with when all other memories fade, let’s honor and value the richness of songs and share the American Songbook with students of all ages.

This lesson is one that I shared with residents at Avita, many of whom live with dementia.

Melissa Tucker greets residents at a senior care center during a Dalcroze class. Photo by David Tucker.

Lesson Sections:

  1. Prelude
  2. Greetings around the circle
  3. Warm Up
  4. Loch Lomond- Traditional song w/ Movements
  5. Opening Activity
  6. Name that Tune/Sing-A-Long
  7. Drumming Activities
  8. Ritual Closing Activity

Originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Dalcroze Connections, Vol. 1 No. 2. Members of the Dalcroze Society of America can read and download this full lesson idea online. Not a member? Join instantly online.

About Melissa Tucker

Dalcroze is at the heart of Melissa Tucker’s career as a music educator. She finds the unique combination of movement, improvisation, dynamic social interaction, and deep study of music to be ingenious and exhilarating. Melissa is a core faculty member of the Dalcroze Institute of New England (formerly the Dalcroze Summer Institute at Longy) led by Eiko Ishizuka. She is a DSA Trustee and member of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee. An Oberlin graduate, Melissa studied classical piano with Lydia Frumkin at Oberlin Conservatory. She earned the Dalcroze Certificate and License with Lisa Parker and Anne Farber at Longy. Melissa currently serves on the faculty of Longy School of Music of Bard College and Concord Conservatory.

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