Senior Citizens Thrive With Music Therapy - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

Senior Citizens Thrive With Music Therapy

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by Heather Graf

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - It might be your mother, your father, your grandmother, or a close aunt or uncle. Watching a loved one age is never easy.

The staff at The Blakeford at Green Hills knows that, perhaps better than anyone. That's why the nursing home and assisted living facility has put a program into place that has nothing to do with medicine, and is already seeing results.

It starts with a visit from music therapist Drew Laney.

"The songs that were put in their library, when they were mostly ages 14 to 24, give or take, are still there," she said. "And they don't know they're still there, until I've brought them out."

She carries her guitar to more than a dozen rooms each day, in addition to several group sessions. The songs she plays vary greatly, depending on who she's playing to.

"I try to have a semi-circle, so I can go through and see what he or she needs," she says. 'Who needs to have more energizing music, who needs to have calmer music."

91-year-old Annabel Higgins is just one of the patients she works with.

Like many others, she suffers from dementia, but since Annabel began working with Drew, her family has noticed huge improvements in her memory.

"I mean, when you hear music, it brings back the emotions of the time when you first heard it or when it was your favorite song. It keeps all those memories alive in a way," said Annabel's daughter Melinda Coles. "I was actually pretty amazed."

Not Drew. She knows the power of music firsthand because it healed her once, too.

"Well, actually, when I was about 19, my sister Faye died," she recalled. "It was a very sudden thing that wasn't supposed to happen, and after I began breathing again and quit yelling at God, I remembered someone had mentioned there was such a thing as music therapy that existed."

That's when her love for music turned into a love for music therapy.

She's now been at The Blakeford at Green Hills for seven years. She works mostly with patients who have dementia or Alzheimer's, who often doubt themselves when she asks if they know the words to a certain song.

That moment when she starts playing the song and they start to remember the words, she said, is what she loves most about her job.

"Seeing that sparkle come up - that's just exhilarating, to see life," she said.

If you need further proof that it works, just ask Annabel herself.

"I'm planning to live to be one hundred," she said. "I can't believe I'm as old as I am. I don't feel it!"

Music therapy programs are offered at nursing homes and assisted living facilities throughout Middle Tennessee.

To learn more about the results they've seen at The Blakeford at Green Hills, go to their website at


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