Grand Friends

Available as an audio article. LISTEN HERE

Connecting generations through the Intergenerational Music Therapy Jamboree.

Many older adults living with dementia experience a decline in their social connections. The risk of social isolation and loneliness increases even further for older adults living in long-term care.

At a population level, as the birth rate continues to decline in countries worldwide, people live geographically distant from their families, and many individuals start having children later in life, older adults may have reduced opportunity for intergenerational connections.

Music is a safe place for older adults, especially those living with dementia, to meet and connect with others.

–Kate Dupuis, Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging

Connecting Generations

A large body of research underscores the importance of intergenerational connections for breaking down ageist stereotypes and improving the well-being of older adults through fostering new relationships and encouraging communication and connection.

See the link below to download the FREE Intergenerational Jamboree Guide

It is crucial to provide intergenerational opportunities for older adults, in particular those experiencing changes to their cognitive status and those living in communal spaces (e.g., long-term care) where there may be fewer chances to connect with others.

Music for Health and Well-being

Music is a safe place for older adults, especially those living with dementia, to meet and connect with others. The universality of music means that even when spoken language becomes more difficult, or if people lose the ability to speak in a language they used to share with loved ones, they can still communicate through song, sound, and movement.

Music therapy is an evidence-based intervention technique in which accredited clinicians use music to address and work towards specific clinical goals. Music therapy has been used successfully with older adults, including those living with dementia.

The Intergenerational Jamboree is an innovative music therapy program that addresses the health and well-being of both younger and older individuals.

–Kate Dupuis, Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging

Decades of research have highlighted the myriad benefits of both intergenerational programming and music therapy, when offered independently. There is limited research on intergenerational music therapy, especially with very young children. The Intergenerational Jamboree is an innovative music therapy program that combines these two techniques to help address the health and well-being of both younger and older individuals.

Intergenerational Jamboree Program

The Intergenerational Jamboree was co-created by the music therapist and director of recreation of a long-term care home in Guelph, Canada, in 2017 to purposefully address the lack of intergenerational connections for their residents. In Jamboree, children typically aged four years and younger are invited to participate in music-making with their accompanying adult (e.g., a parent or grandparent). Residents are assessed for eligibility by a music therapist and participate in weekly music therapy sessions with the children.

This intervention provides very young children with the opportunity to connect with their “adopted grandmas and grandpas” through music.

–Kate Dupuis, Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging

In each session, the music therapist leads the participants in song, integrating instruments and activities such as bubble blowing, drumming, and dancing with a parachute. Songs are chosen that would appeal to both children (e.g., nursery rhymes) and the older adults (e.g., songs from the 1940s and 1950s). This intervention provides very young children with the opportunity to connect with their “adopted grandmas and grandpas” through music. The program must be facilitated by a music therapist, to help participants benefit from their clinical expertise.

There is typically no “drop-in” option for Jamboree; participants sign up for the entire 8-week or 12-week program, with each weekly session lasting approximately one hour and ending, in the words of program co-founder Kathy Lepp, MTA, “when everyone is still happy”. This strategy gives participants the opportunity to get to know one another as the sessions unfold and learn about each other as the weeks progress.

Next Steps

Since 2018, our team has formally evaluated both in-person and virtual iterations of the Jamboree. Our research findings demonstrate the incredible power of Jamboree to engage participants in music and movement, support formation of new relationships between young children from the community and their “adopted Grandfriends”, facilitate reminiscence in older adults, and help demystify dementia and introduce more children to long-term care.

© Tony Saxon, Guelph Today, 2018

Too often, long-term care homes are siloed, with residents cut off from the surrounding community. The Intergenerational Jamboree encourages community members to come into the home and help fill the hallways with music and laughter.

Research supports benefits of the Jamboree not only for the younger and older participants directly involved in the program, but also for staff working in the homes who are observing the program as they go about their daily activities. Given the current health human resources staffing and retention crisis, the Jamboree is an excellent way to bring more moments of joy to the incredible staff members who care for our oldest neighbours.

Funding from the Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CABHI) is currently supporting expansion of the Intergenerational Jamboree to 15 sites across Ontario, including daycares, retirement homes, and adult day programs.

GET MORE INFORMATION

Listen and learn more about the Intergenerational Jamboree in this recent podcast from the Centre for Aging + Brain Health Innovation (CABHI).

Download the free Intergenerational Jamboree Program Implementation Guide from the Research Institute for Aging (RIA).

Read more by Kate in our Live Well article archive

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kate Dupuis, PhD., C.Psych., is a clinical neuropsychologist and the Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging at Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada.

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