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Keeping music alive in aged care during COVID-19

Live music can be an important activity for older people to engage and help them connect with others, however, many aged care facilities who previously had visiting music therapists or musicians at the facility may now no longer be able to attend and get the toes tapping of music-loving residents.

Music is a quintessential activity for everyone and can bring so much joy to older people, which is why it is important they still have access to it. [Source: Shutterstock]
Music is a quintessential activity for everyone and can bring so much joy to older people, which is why it is important they still have access to it. [Source: Shutterstock]

But one music therapist in Sydney has been able to keep his music sessions going in an aged care facility during the COVID-19 visitor restrictions by utilising live online video to continue connecting with older residents.

Robert Teicher, a music therapist and musician of many years, was disappointed that he couldn't see the smiling faces of older people in the aged care facilities he would normally visit.

One of Mr Teicher's regular facilities is utilising technology to keep their residents engaged during this time, which he decided to take advantage of and keep providing his sessions.

"First of all, music is such a valuable tool to engage and have everybody feel good, tapping their toes and reminiscing - singing does that. So there is the therapeutic value to it, which is priceless," explains Mr Teicher.

"And secondly, it is a chance for everyone to be together even though I am not present, but the residents understand how the technology works and they call out songs and I can respond and play straight away. 

"They absolutely embrace the technology as well. It is almost as if I am there, it is very important from the point of view that the residents have activity.

"I used to be there every week, they can still see me, there is a familiarity there, it is not like I am a stranger up on the screen."

Many residents tell Mr Teicher that his sessions are the favourite part of their week, which is why he is glad to continue providing his music services.

He adds that engagement is key to his live sessions, because while you can watch a famous performer on the TV, it is less likely to encourage residents to sing along, tap their toes, smile or dance.

Mr Teicher says music is a quintessential activity for everyone and can bring so much joy to older people, which is why it is important they still have access to it.

"[Live video] is a great back up tool but nothing compares to someone being physically present together with everybody. As soon as you come up on screen, they start waving and saying hello, because they recognise me," says Mr Teicher.

"Doing everything via Zoom or telehealth conference type videos is great, and in days like we are presently in with COVID, it is such a valuable tool. The diversional therapist from the facility gives me a thumbs up and tells me about how great it is to see everyone come alive."

"But there is no substitute for the real thing. We all have the opportunity to watch the great performers on TV, but we still go to live performances. There is something about the atmosphere and the vibe, the presence of people that helps connect with everybody."

Mr Teicher is looking forward to heading back into facilities to do his music therapy sessions once COVID-19 is no longer a health risk to residents.

For more information about the coronavirus, visit the Aged Care Guide COVID-19 update page.

Do you have any questions about the coronavirus that you want answered? Tell us in the comments below or email journalist@dps.com.au.

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