Faces of Music Care Part 7: Buddy’s Glee Club

by Bev Foster

A Choir Program at Baycrest’s Community Day Centre

This blog entry is submitted by Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, PhD, MTA, MT-BC, FAMI, Senior Music Therapist, Baycrest Hospital. Buddy’s Glee Club is a study supported through a donation by a private donor in honour of her late husband “Buddy”, and a grant from the Association for Interdisciplinary Research in Singing (AIRS) of which Dr. Clements-Cortes is a co-investigator. Music and Singing Music and singing are meaningful and purposeful forms of activity that facilitate connection with others. Choral groups offer valuable experiences and are enjoyed across the lifespan. Once an adult is placed in long-term care, engaging in expressive therapeutic activity such as choral singing may be limited due to mobility, physical or cognitive issues that some may perceive as inhibiting a person’s potential participation. Such life changes are often distressing and may cause feelings of inadequacy or sadness. Buddy’s Glee Club at Baycrest was formed to provide opportunities for reminiscence and the social connection of belonging to a group to which participants contribute and play an active role. Being in a choir offers numerous benefits such as:  improved breathing, increased attention and focus, and diversion from pain and anxiety; all while learning new or reactivating previously learned skills. Comments from Buddy’s Glee Club participants:

  • I‘m happy because I’m in Glee Club
  • I was concentrating on the songs- I forgot about my pain
  • I’m not feeling anxious because I’m looking forward to Glee Club. I wouldn’t miss it for the world
  • This is the best program I’ve been to
  • The choir is most inspiring. I enjoy every moment and I have a feeling of accomplishment

The Buddy’s Glee Club phase one study involved older adults who attended the Baycrest Community Day Centre program, and took part in a weekly one hour choral program for 16 weeks. Participants were assessed before and after the 16 week choir sessions for general health, self-esteem, anxiety, feelings/emotions and quality of life; and were interviewed at the completion of the study. Five large themes emerged from the data including: friendship and companionship; simplicity; happiness, uplifting and positive feelings; relaxing and reduced anxiety; and fun. Many participants had previous musical experiences, and participation in this choir helped them reminisce about past choir experiences, childhood choirs, memories associated with music, and raising their families. Participants indicated the choir was an overall positive and enjoyable experience which facilitated making friends, and singing familiar songs in a group with others. In the summer of 2012, phase two of the research project brought Buddy’s Glee Club to a new group of older adults in the Baycrest Apotex Centre. In this phase, the majority of the participants are diagnosed with cognitive impairment.There is little research or writing in the literature currently about the benefits of singing in a choir for cognitively impaired older adults, and so phase two is ground-breaking in the field of music therapy. The study has new measures and is designed to accommodate the inclusion of cognitively impaired adults and involves gathering pretest and post-test information from a questionnaire, with questions focusing on energy, happiness, mood, pain, and anxiety at each choral session. Several of the participants are able to answer the questions on their own, but for those who are cognitively unable to answer the questions, staff, private companions and the study’s research assistant subjectively determine the participant’s current state of being after being trained in such evaluation measures. The team for the phase two study includes two recreational therapists, three volunteers, one music therapy intern, choir facilitator, accompanist, and the research assistant. The choral facilitator and accompanist are both music therapists.  Together this team creates a fun and engaging environment for all of the participants. Make sure you are singing for your health and wellness! Singing offers benefits across the lifespan.