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Music as Medicine

by Simply BIts | Jul 01, 2016

Nathan singingMuch has been said about the power of music. Confucius says “Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.”  Rabbi Jonathan Sacks puts it beautifully, “There is an inner connection between music and the spirit…words are the language of the mind. Music is the language of the soul.” And recently there seems to be growing scientific evidence that there are measurable positive neurochemical changes as a result of listening to music in the areas of pleasure, stress, pain management, and immunity. With all of that in mind, Handmaker regularly fills its halls and neighborhoods with the sounds of music, and much of it is live.

Even without reading a profound quote or a scientific study, it is fairly obvious to most anyone watching the reactions of Handmaker residents while listening to music that the music affects them in a very positive way. When they listen to music, you see the smiles on their faces. You notice how focused and calm they appear. Those who can, may tap their feet or their hands, sing along, clap or even shimmy their shoulders. Clearly this is good medicine, with no side effects, no contraindications.

Music is regularly scheduled at Handmaker, weekly live performances in our skilled nursing neighborhoods, and several times a week in the assisted living and memory care neighborhoods. And those are just the regularly scheduled performances. Handmaker has also hosted UA Encore, the Tzofim Friendship Caravan and the Arizona Music and Dance Academy, just in the last few months.

There are religious musical offerings as well. Every Friday night residents are invited to join in a musical Friday evening Shabbat service in the Rubin Café. We are fortunate to have Lindsey O’Shea lend her beautiful voice as she leads the service, and even residents who do not participate in the service enjoy listening to the music as they eat dinner in the dining room next door, or as they pass by on their way to dinner. And every Saturday morning the Shabbat service led by Mel Cohen and Dan Asia fills the Great Room at Handmaker with prayers, songs and chanting from the Torah.

Music can bring out the best in people, and bring out the best people. There are some residents who rarely participate in any of the large variety of activities offered on the Handmaker campus, but they may be the first to grab a seat at a musical performance. And we are thrilled to have them humming along.