On Wednesday, Aug. 30, seniors struggling with memory issues came together at Front Porch Retirement Community Villa Gardens in Pasadena, California, to sing “You Are My Sunshine,” “America the Beautiful” and other classics, joined by their caretakers, family members and a youth choir (Los Angeles Youth Ambassadors).
A total of 55 choir participants, young and old, performed in front of more than 200 caretakers, family and friends after months of hard work and twice-weekly rehearsals, accompanied by a professional pianist and a licensed psychologist who provided training, guidance and encouragement.
The Joyful Hearts choir, an initiative designed by Front Porch to help seniors with memory issues such as Alzheimer’s and dementia, has given residents the opportunity to form meaningful relationships, form social connections and keep their cognitive processes stimulated.
“It’s been wonderful,” said Ann Graf, a volunteer buddy and resident at Villa Gardens, who has formed a friendship with resident Alice from Villa Gardens Summer House memory care neighborhood. “I’ve seen so many people like Alice who live at Summer House and may not be able to converse easily but they can sing. It’s inspiring. They come alive in song,” said Ann.
The choir has not only helped residents with memory issues, but has broken down intergenerational barriers. “I like singing with the residents because they have a very happy and positive vibe. They sing their hearts out and it’s contagious,” said 15 year-old Mirielle Anne Enriquez of Los Angeles Young Ambassadors choir, which joined the senior choir for a multigenerational performance. (See photo below)
Throughout the past few months, the choir has made gainful improvements:
– Residents with Alzheimer’s and other cognitive issues suddenly “waking up” to tap their fingers and feet to the rhythm of the music
– Many residents committing songs to memory and no longer using songbooks
– Changes in body language such as residents clapping, raising hands to the beat, moving their whole bodies in their seats, and joyful facial expressions