Faces of Music Care: The Java Music Club

by Bev Foster

Music Care is a term used to describe the use of music as a means of caring in the context of community. Music Care encompasses many expressions. In this blog series, learn about the many faces of Music Care in Canada.  This is Part 1 in a series called Faces of Music Care and focuses on an innovative long term care program called the Java Music Club.

The Java Music Club

Building a culture of positive mutual support and a foundation for an effective and representative Residents' Council in long term care

The Java Music Club is an applied research, mutual support program, designed to tackle critical levels of loneliness and depression in long term care as well as assisted living, retirement, adult day-care and other supported living settings. It incorporates music, discussion topics, quotations, and photographs to create an engaging and stimulating atmosphere for participants to share about ongoing challenges and successes, to make new friends, and to learn more about each other.

The underlying theme of the group is positive mutual support and guidelines encourage the more able members to reach out to and support each other as well as more isolated or withdrawn residents.  An Aboriginal traditional "talking stick" is used to ensure each participant gets a chance to speak - and a chance to listen. 

Easy to follow guidelines and an implementation training DVD are included so that recreation staff, and other interested staff or volunteers, can learn how to lead a successful Java Music Club group - no musical skills are required!  The high-quality standardized format can easily be replicated in multiple settings.


  The Java Music Club was the subject of a pilot research study that examined six resident groups in three care homes in British Columbia. The study was completed through the Gerontology Department of Simon Fraser University and funded in part by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Study group participant reports indicate a decrease in loneliness and an increased sense of belonging and empowerment. Staff also reported positive outcomes and personal benefits from facilitating the program. The research has recently been published in the Journal of Applied Gerontology. (http://jag.sagepub.com/content/early/2012/06/06/0733464812446866.abstract)

The Java Music Club program is designed so that those with cognitive impairment can actively participate. Almost all the participants in the research study had some form of cognitive impairment and close to half had moderate to severe cognitive impairment. Although it would seem that a verbal discussion program such as a mutual support group would not work well with this population, observations of and interviews with participants reveal that not only did those with mild-moderate cognitive impairment actively participate and appear to benefit, but those with severe cognitive impairment did as well. Mutual support groups represent tremendous therapeutic potential for decreasing the loneliness, helplessness and depression.

Once implemented the Java Music Club format can be utilized to help ensure a representative and effective residents' council.  Periodically the meeting may open up to discuss issues that can be brought forward to the residents’ council.  The Java Music Club manual has a suggested format and guidelines for these types of meetings.  Once a level of trust is built, and participants become accustomed to sharing, in depth discussions can help reveal important issues affecting residents.  The Ontario Association of Residents' Councils has given the Java Music Club a letter of support for the creative work done in this area.

For more information please visit our website: www.javamusicclub.com or contact Kristine Theurer, [email protected], Tel (604) 531 9875