As they say . . . “Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”

By Steve Moran

It took real sleep-deprived effort to see the Yamaha keyboard folks do their thing at Abe’s Garden Memory Care Community a few weeks ago. I had to drive 8 hours from Central Oregon where my wife and I spent a week vacationing with 4 generations of family. After the drive, I unpacked the car, packed a fresh bag, slept for an hour, then headed to the airport for a redeye flight to Nashville.

It was worth it.

It was cool.

Keyboarding for Dementia Residents

Several years ago the Yamaha keyboarding folks created a system for teaching basic keyboard playing to people like me, who are hopeless when it comes to playing the piano or any sort of keyed instrument. I — like a lot of you — endured forced piano lessons, which meant hours of boring, drudgery-filled home practice sessions that produced, at best, mediocre results and spawned flurries of parent-child angst.This system is nothing like that.  it is fun. 

And yet, to this point the primary place this system has been used is on cruise ships where passengers come in, take simple lessons, and are able to have huge amounts of fun. They make some cool music and they, maybe even, learn a little.  

It turned out to be a huge hit with passengers coming back for more and bringing along their friends.

Early on, they actually took a tiny dance into the senior living field; however, at the time, the system was massively expensive and the economy was terrible. Consequently, that intial effort went no where.

Take Two

Yamaha recently engaged Sage Age Strategies, a Senior Housing Forum partner, to explore the senior living opportunity.  Faith Ott the founder of Sage Age set up to pilots,  The first with a Southern California Pacifica Senior Living community and the second with Abe’s Garden Memory Care Community in Nashville.

My crazy redeye trip to Nashville was all about checking this out.

Will It Work/ How Will It Work

The truth of the matter is that no one has any idea. It is the very reason why we need an organization like Abe’s Garden that is willing to commit the time, energy and effort to explore these kinds of life enrichment experiences/opportunities. There are a bunch of questions to be answered:

  1. Will the residents like it?

  2. Will the residents use it today and still use it in 6 months?

  3. Will the staff get behind it?

  4. How much time and skill will it take to make it effective?

  5. Will it work with residents?

  6. Will it work with dementia residents?

  7. How will families feel about it?

  8. Will it really engage residents?

  9. Will it cause frustration and be counterproductive?

I like it, the other staff and board members who tried it liked it . . . but at the end of the day that means nothing. All that counts is what it does for the residents.

At this point, this is not a pitch for the product or the program, but — if works — it could be really cool. It could create amazing intergenerational engagement. It has the potential to create meaningful interaction between IL, AL and memory care residents. It has huge potential as a vehicle that will allow dementia residents to continue to create.

More than anything else, it is a great lesson for senior living organizations to keep experimenting and sharing results.  You can watch just a bit of our experience here.