New resource helps create intergenerational connections through music therapy

If there is one thing we have learned through the pandemic, it’s that music and the arts can build connections and strengthen relationships even when we can’t be together. Schlegel Innovation Leader in Arts and Aging Kate Dupuis knows exactly how music can be used to connect people and cross generational gaps. She has been studying the effects of the Intergenerational Jamboree music therapy intervention (The Jamboree) at the Village of Riverside Glen, and she and her Village colleagues have developed a guide so other homes can bring this innovative program to their residents.

The Jamboree is a 12 week music therapy intervention for residents and young children and their caregivers from the community to come together and sing songs, play instruments and build relationships. The intervention is run by an accredited music therapist and has been shown to have many benefits. For the older adults, spending time with young people can improve health outcomes and increase well-being. Both groups benefit from the music therapy and have the opportunity to learn from each other and break down stigmas associated with ageism.

The Jamboree was originally developed at the Village of Riverside Glen, and Dupuis has been conducting evaluations to show the benefits of bringing these groups together. “It’s incredible to see the connections being made. After 12-weeks, the kids are running into the room to greet the older adults, and parents tell us they love to see their ‘adopted grandmas and grandpas’.” says Dupuis.

When the pandemic placed restrictions on people entering long-term care homes, Dupuis and the Jamboree team knew something needed to be done to keep these relationships going strong. They developed a Virtual Jamboree that allowed caregivers and children to participate from their own homes. Kits with instruments, props and other fun activities were sent to the children’s homes and the music therapist ran the Jamboree sessions over Zoom. Though it wasn’t quite the same, participants of all ages were happy to be back together.

Seeing that the Intergenerational Jamboree could be beneficial to other long-term care homes, both virtually and in-person when pandemic restrictions are lifted, Dupuis decided to share the Jamboree with other homes. Along with Schlegel Village team members Kathy Lepp, Carrie Perkins and Melissa Jessop, Dupuis developed a Jamboree “how-to guide”. This guide is now available to download on the RIA website. It provides steps on organizing the Jamboree, recruiting participants from the community and example plans for a session.

“We hope that by sharing the information in the guide, many homes will be able to start their own Jamboree,” says Dupuis. “The incredible benefits to residents, children and their caregivers and team members show us exactly how important intergenerational connections can be. We’re excited to see how other homes bring the magic of the Jamboree to their own communities.”

To access this guide, click here

Funding for the formal evaluation of the Jamboree and the creation of this guide was provided by an Ontario Trillium Foundation Seed Grant [SD102775] and a Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation Spark Grant  [4-00246].

This story originally appeared in the June edition of Research Matters.