Wingate at Hampden’s administrator Kevin LeClair and music therapist Renee Coro were recently invited to appear live on WWLP’s Mass Appeal to talk memory care and music therapy. On the show, Renee and Kevin talk about the success of Hampden’s unique music therapy program that led to the formation of a songwriting group made up of residents living with dementia.
The idea that music can improve engagement and cognition for people with dementia is not new; a number of senior care communities have adopted music therapy programs to improve mood, reduce anxiety and stimulate memories in residents with memory impairment. But music can be used in ways beyond just consumption—providing residents with a space to create their own music encourages self-expression, allowing them to narrate their own experiences.
So Renee spearheaded a new approach to music therapy with Hampden’s residents: a songwriting group. What started as an individual project for a resident who wanted to put her own poetry to music soon drew the interest of a dozen others. Meeting weekly to write original songs and poetry, the group has spent the past year creating and recording a one-of-a-kind album, “Songs from the Heart.”
Though writing and producing an original album with residents was not something Renee had intentionally set out to do during music therapy sessions, she’s inspired by this project’s success and the response it generated from residents living with memory impairments.
“It just goes to show that there’s still a person in there, and just because they’re affected by this disease doesn’t mean that they’re less than the person they are— there’s still that person in there who can enjoy music and interact with others through the use of music,” Renee explains on Mass Appeal.