Before the COVID-19 pandemic, musician Shannon Wallace took her gift of music into spaces where many musicians may not consider performing: nursing homes, retirement homes, nonprofits, and other locations that serve the elderly and their loved ones.
“I have been a professional touring musician for the past 25 years. As I have grown in my music, I realized that I wanted to extend myself beyond that of just performing and entertaining on stage,” she says. “In other words, I wanted to enhance my outreach to others and make an impact on people’s lives in different, meaningful ways.”
During her work with the elderly population and their caregivers, Wallace saw in particular how her music helped those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. According to Mayo Clinic, research backs her up as music can help relieve stress, reduce anxiety and depression, and reduce agitation. It can also be a way for caregivers and their loved ones to connect.
Once the pandemic hit though and care homes closed their doors to visitors, Wallace found a way to take her work online by creating a live streaming and on-demand Music, Movement & Memory workshop program “aimed to serve those of all ages living with all stages of dementia and cognitive impairment, along with their care partners.”
Each live and pre-recorded video features Wallace interacting with her virtual audience, who then experiences full-body movement exercises; memory and hand-eye coordination games; problem-solving games; humor; and interactive, reflective conversation, all set to music and/or rhythm, according to the program. Subscribers can access this service online from most digital, streaming devices.
“Shannon's creative talents are very apparent in this amazing program that is a win-win situation for all involved,” says George Burson, who works in caregiver services at Duet: Partners In Health & Aging. “It keeps the person with Alzheimer's amused and stimulated, giving them exercise tasks that they can accomplish while underscoring the task with music that they are familiar with. At the same time, the caregiver also gets some exercise while also getting to experience a new type of activity with their loved one.”
Wallace believes that this program is the first of its kind in the world, and since its creation in June, has worked with several care homes and nonprofits. It’s even been endorsed and supported by AARP-Arizona.
“Throughout my life, my grandmother has been tightly woven into the fiber of my being. I have always loved and respected my elders, and as a result, I think this work with seniors was a natural transition for me,” she says. “My initial intention was not necessarily to offer my music to just those living with dementia or cognitive impairment; but somehow, I found my way into that space, in addition to the active adult space, and fell in love with what music can provide to all of those who can benefit most.”
Eventually, Wallace would love to see this program grow to be offered across the U.S. and to English-speaking countries across the globe. To learn more, visit MusicalMemoryCare.com.