By Rich Osborne.
At 1:30 PM every Tuesday, Music Mends Minds gathers at the Vashon Senior Center. MMM is a Vashon Rotary-sponsored sing-a-long for folks suffering dementia. It’s also for folks who just miss singing together. We are Rotarians and non-Rotarians, volunteer musicians playing together to improve the quality of the lives of our neighbors.
There is lots of science now, citing effects of dementia on different parts of the brain, and the effects of music on the dementia, and so on. For me, my own experience of the healing power of music says it all. My lifetime best friend, Jim Kemp, got Parkinson’s Disease. After 15 years, he got the dementia. We sang together for 35 years. When visiting him, I would start singing and he would join in. We would have great visits, remembering old times. Our friends would say, “Well, I don’t visit him because he’s not really there anymore, and it’s so depressing.“ I would tell them, “Sing with him! You can bring him back!” Those who did experienced the same joyful times that I shared, up until the day he died.
Last fall, I flew to Spokane to see my older sister Linda, who has Alzheimer’s Disease. She was a cowgirl, back in the day. She did not recognize me until I borrowed a guitar and sang, “Mommas don’t let your Babies grow up to be Cowboys!” At which point she came back into herself. We sang and talked and laughed and cried. Her kids and grandkids said, “Lucky you. You caught her on a good day.” I said, “No. We made a good day. If you want her to be with you, sing with her!” When we do this, that beautiful, funny, snarky, cowgirl I remember from fifty years ago comes back.
At Music Mends Minds, we sing familiar songs, everything from Beatles to Broadway. In the last 5 years, we have moved around a bit. Starting at the Lutheran Church, we moved to the Vashon Community Care Center. We took the COVID break and returned. When VCC closed, we moved to the Vashon Senior Center.
So come. If you have an older friend, your mom or dad, your husband or wife, locked in the loneliness of their brain, come. Bring them. You’ll find them here, in our songs.