Using music as a trigger for memories…

Keeping residents engaged through music

The sound of music will emanate from aged care home Mercy Place Lathlain on International Music Day – Sunday 21 June – when volunteer Yolanda MacFarlaine takes her mum, resident Margaret MacFarlaine, and other seniors on a trip down memory lane with songs from yesteryear. 

Music has always been a huge part of 70-year-old Miss MacFarlaine’s life, having been taught to play the ukulele as a seven-year-old by her musically talented father, when she and her two sisters and brother were growing up in a small village in Penang, Malaysia. 

And today Yolanda plays regularly for residents at the not-for-profit home, which she has visited most days since her father, and then her mother, became residents over three years ago.

“I play mostly war songs for the seniors, as well as tunes from the 1950s, so things like You’re My Sunshine, She’ll be Coming ‘round the Mountain and Show Me the Way to Go Home,” explains Miss MacFarlaine. 

“Many residents have Alzheimer’s, and although their short-term memory is in decline, as soon as I get my ukulele out and play songs that they know, they start singing and they are able to recall all of the words.

“It’s been really wonderful to be able to play for them regularly and get to know the music that they love.  Everyone has a good time and it’s just wonderful to see the smiles on their faces.”

Mercy Place Lathlain Service Manager, Mark Flores, said the therapeutic effect of music for seniors, particularly those living with Alzheimer’s and other related conditions, couldn’t be overstated. 

“Generally speaking, music is an incredible trigger for emotions and memories from our past to emerge,” he says.

“On International Music Day, and in fact throughout the week, we are so pleased that Yolanda comes in to see her mum and plays for our residents at the same time, although this has been a little bit more restricted in recent months.  With eased restrictions imminent I know that all of the residents are looking forward to hearing their favourite songs again next Sunday.”