Every Thursday, I lead a "Generations" class at a Senior Living Facility. Residents create a circle and families gather within it. The magic that happens in the sweet community is a gift to witness. "The babies are coming!" That's what I hear from residents as I walk through the hall to the area we gather in. "This is my favorite day of the week!" "I love the babies!" The children in class are babies, toddlers and preschoolers, but to the Grandfriends, they are "the babies!" As everyone gathers, there is chatting, handshakes and hugs. There are a few residents who I introduce myself (and the program) to every week. Each week they are as delighted as before - "what a wonderful idea!"
Most of the songs we sing are from whatever Music Together® collection we are using that semester, but we also incorporate songs that are a part of our Grandfriend's memories. "You Are My Sunshine" and "My Bonnie" are favorites at lullaby time. There are several Grandfriends who have sung all their lives and they have shared songs with us ~ taking over leadership of the lullaby, or like yesterday, teaching us an old silly song! We learned "How Much is That Doggie in the Window?" including barks!
When we first began coming, the assumption on the part of the Grandfriends and their aids was that we were coming to "entertain." We quickly clarified that we would be singing "together." The assumption was that we were doing something for them, but the reality is that what they offer us is just as important. So many children live away from their grandparents, and vice versa. In our communities we isolate people by age groups. "Generations" works to counteract this using music as a beautiful bridge. Grandfriends who can't remember what they just had for breakfast can remember a whole catalogue of songs from a lifetime of making and listening to music! Grandfriends who's bodies have failed them can sing to children who are just trying to figure out how theirs work. Just like the children, they get to participate at whatever level they choose. While some might doze off for a nap, we have a few who regularly join us for dancing, and then there is a range of engagement in between.
While it is clear how both Grandfriends and children benefit from Generations, the parents and caregivers benefit as well. WE ARE NOT ALONE! The love and support they receive from the Grandfriends is judgement-free! There is laughter at the antics of active little ones instead of judgement about behavior. There are kind words spoken about what a good job is being done raising these little ones. With so many eyes watching, I see caregivers relax a little and just enjoy the experience.
Music is one of the few things in life that we can all share, and it can be engaged in from birth to death. There is no such thing as being too young or too old for making music! It is a life-long gift. In a world where young and old alike are dismissed, set aside until they grow up or until they die, music brings them together to grow, to share, and to thrive.
May music be a gift to you and your family during this Holiday season. Much love, Jane