I love to listen to music when I run. I have a playlist that has some newer songs, but by and large most of my selections are from the Eighties and early Nineties. When I was out the other day one of my favorites, Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name” came on.

Not only does it give me a boost as I’m running, but it instantly transports me back to the first time I heard that song- 28 years ago to be exact. I was 14, and I can remember every detail of where I was when I heard it for the first time. Most of the songs on my playlist have some sort of memory tied to them, and I’d venture to guess that’s true for most music people choose to hear.

The Glenn Miller Generation No More

While rocking out with Bon Jovi I also started thinking about our residents in senior living. They no longer fit the Glenn Miller mold. Sure there are residents who are in their nineties who listened to the Big Band groups in their hey-day, but more and more of our incoming residents listened to Elvis and Doo-Wop groups from the Fifties, as well as some Rock and Roll from the Sixties. No longer is “In the Mood” the anthem of the senior population at large, and as Baby Boomers continue to age it will evolve even more.

Variety is King

How do we keep up with the changing tastes of the new senior living population coming into our communities? First and foremost we need to remember that we are serving individuals. They all have differing tastes and affinities. This can be seen in their desire for more varied culinary choices, community amenities, and desire for an active lifestyle. No longer are senior communities the “rest homes” of the past but they are launching pads for our residents to continue to stay engaged in life in ways their parents never did.

Daily Musical Variations

Music perfectly represents those changing patterns. For example, in our community we have a Sonos system, a high fidelity sound system that connects via the wireless network. With this one system we have the ability to type in any genre of music and it will pull up a station we can play in the community. Because of the variety of residents we serve, it is not unusual to hear the Rat Pack in the morning, 50’s in the afternoon, and smooth jazz at dinner time. It’s great to be able to accommodate those listening preferences across the spectrum of resident inclinations.

What’s on Your Playlist?

Because we are discussing those changing tastes I’d love to leave you with an assignment; yes, this post requires some participation in order to understand the full impact of our residents choices! I’d like you to think about the songs you’d put on your own playlist; those that have a tie to significant events in your life, hold special memories, and remind you of your life’s goals and dreams.

I’m going to share a few of my favorites to get things started:

Rhinestone Cowboy- Glenn Campbell- tied to some of my fondest childhood memories

Cool Change- Little River Band- one of my dad’s favorites songs

I Can Dream About you- Dan Hartman- one of my moms favorites songs

The Way You do the Things You do- UB40- one of my teenage favorites

Still the One- Orleans- the song that I sing to my husband

Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get out Of- U2- the anthem of one of the toughest periods of my life

The Four Seasons-Vivaldi-the first piece of classical music I fell in love with and still my favorite

So We Never Got to Paris- Out of the Grey- a beautiful song about how different, yet beautiful our lives are despite the fact that they often deviate from our best laid plans

Memories and Music- A Beautiful Combination

There are many more I can add to this list, all equally laden with memories. If I, at 42 have already amassed a collection of music inextricably linked to who I am, how much more will our residents, decades older, have the same connections to music? What better way to customize their senior living experience than by playing the music they like, not what we think they’d like?

I encourage you to think about your own personal playlist and then translate those songs into the future when you may live in a senior community. Will you still want to hear those songs that transport you back to the happiest times in your life, or will you willingly subject yourself to elevator music because it’s a community standard?

I invite you to share a few of your favorites, then carry this exercise back to your communities and look at how you can customize something as simple as a music choice for the benefit of all your residents. Think about what you’d like and then use that to remember that your residents have an even lengthier cache of musical inclinations, each tied to specific memories. Let it be the first step in transforming your community from one that does things the way they’ve always been done to one that really sees their residents as individuals.

And finally, if we chance to meet in 40 or so years in a senior community, I’ll be the one demanding to listen to ” You give Love a Bad Name” as loud as possible.