Memories To Music: Seniors Learning From Seniors

10259769_707457759350017_6367664688648605383_nIt is a very high school-specific event but I really want to highlight the amazing job that Mentor’s senior music students did at last night’s “Memories to Music” concert.

For the uninitiated, this is a pilot project with the Alzheimer’s Society where students are matched up with a senior partner in the early stages of dementia, interview them over the course of a few weeks and then compose a song about their senior partner. The song is performed for the senior partner and their family at the concert but more importantly, it is recorded so the senior partner can have a copy of their own. Numerous studies show that even after other aspects of a person’s memory have faded, music seems to “stick” in our minds longer so having a song that chronicles your life story can help you remember those details.

As faculty advisor Mr. Hoare told the crowd, his favourite part of the process is that very first meeting. He and his counterpart at the Alzheimer’s Day Centre (just across the street from the Main Campus) watch as both the students and seniors are SO nervous to meet each other…both groups wondering “Am I going to get a cool person?” and “Will they like me?” and within 5 minutes, they are chatting back and forth like old friends. Mr. Hoare’s theory is that teenagers and seniors have that one special bond of “neither one of them care what middle-aged people think about them” and that is why the programme works so well.

As with most events like this, the tendency is to focus in on how much “we” are doing for “them” but in this case, I think the students might even get more out of the experience than their senior partners. Case in point? The final number of the concert was, unfortunately, dedicated posthumously to Joan Linklater by her student friends Mirabella Chan and Vanessa Kabu-Asante. Joan passed away in October but her husband Jim was gracious enough to allow Vanessa and Mia to sing the song in her memory. The song started with a poem Jim gave them:

When I come to the end of the road, and the sun has set for me
I want no rites in a gloom filled room, why cry for a soul set free?

The tissues came out around the room and I told myself that if the girls started to cry, I knew I would be joining them. They did a gorgeous job of the song and were able to keep it together until they got off the stage and got a big hug from Jim and then their classmates and the audience joined me in a sad/happy cry. I am sure Vanessa and Mia will be recounting that story to generations of their own families…their own version of “Memories to Music”.

Chris Starkey
Administrative Principal
Mentor College/TEAM School

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