‘Travelling’ guitarist engages residents who need music therapy most

Musician Jim Ryan will play guitar for residents one on one or while walking down hallways

When local musician Jim Ryan visits Garden Terrace, he tries to spend as much time as he can with those residents who are affected by cognitive impairment, playing guitar for them in their rooms.

Sometimes he will stroll up and down the hallways of the neighbourhoods where residents affected by cognitive impairment live, playing his guitar for their enjoyment. He typically spends about 30 minutes in each neighbourhood.

With pandemic restrictions easing this year, music therapy and live entertainment are areas of daily life the home is ramping up, and guests like Jim bring great value to residents, says Garden Terrace life enrichment co-ordinator Shannon Boisvenue.

Music can provide many benefits to people living with cognitive impairment, Shannon says. Music has the power to lighten moods, ease agitation and leave people feeling uplifted.

Jim has experience offering his music therapy services to people living with cognitive impairment, and his visits are meaningful to the residents of the Kanata, Ont. long-term care home, Shannon notes, adding Jim’s performances “are like travelling music.”

Shannon says many residents affected by cognitive impairment find it difficult to participate in larger programs, so having Jim visit the home with his guitar provides an important service.

And Jim also enjoys playing for people one on one.

“Some people prefer to play for a larger crowd, but he is really into this,” Shannon says.

“(His music therapy) has been something that has been really well received and I think we will continue to do this moving forward.”

The benefits of music therapy for people with cognitive impairment are well documented, and according to the U.S.-based Mayo Clinic, music therapy can benefit both people affected by dementia and their caregivers.

“Research suggests that listening to or singing songs can provide emotional and behavioral benefits for people with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia,” the Mayo Clinic states on its website.

“Music can also benefit caregivers by reducing anxiety and distress, lightening the mood, and providing a way to connect with loved ones who have Alzheimer’s disease – especially those who have difficulty communicating.”

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