Reality check: an occasion when someone must consider the unpleasant truth about something rather than trying to ignore it.  – Cambridge Dictionaries Online

A reality check for music therapistsReality checks are not fun. But, they serve an important function. They connect us with the truth.

If you are a music therapist working with older adults, it is time for a reality check. There are several things impacting us. Among them are:

  1. The increasing number of boomers entering “senior” care; and
  2. The increasing use and awareness of Music & Memories ℠.

Boomer reality check

A 2010 Pew Research report indicated approximately 10,000 Baby Boomers will cross the 65 threshold every day until 2029. Even with that number, I hadn’t thought much about the need to verbalize how we as boomers (yes, I am one of them) are impacting what music is/should be provided. That is until Cathy Knoll, MT-BC posted a “rant” in the closed Facebook group Music Therapists United.

While people have always been unique in their tastes, I believe a wider diversity will be shown in the boomer generation. Heavens, while my husband and I are only a couple of years apart, there’s not tons similar in what we grew-up singing. TV and radio while providing syndicated programs which spread big names, also shared local and regional music.  Yes, my husband and I can both sing our share of TV show theme songs. However, other than a few “children’s classics” (Gilligan’s Island, The Adams Family, Mr. Ed) even our TV watching is/was unique to each of us.

In Cathy’s words:

DO get to know me as a person and learn about my unique musical tastes and preferences, keeping in mind that I am an individual, not a generation. And DO introduce lots of variety, and DO introduce me to new music you like. And DO share some of my Grandmother’s music in the mix…

Honestly, we ALL need to set more time aside to get to know our clients. Assess more than musical tastes. Ask about performing, concerts attendance, how they listened to music.

But don’t stop there. Be sure you teach senior care providers to do the same. Let’s be honest, unless we start churning out hundreds more music therapists each year, the MT to senior ratio will decline. We need to empower others in the effective use of music. And, we need to let them know when a music therapist is needed.

Music & Memories ℠ Reality Check

Speaking of teaching others how to use music, the Music & Memories ℠ has started the process.Whether the people you serve are in home, community or senior living settings, this program has affected your work.

Whether that impact is good or bad, can vary.

  • An example of the good is people excited to explore other options for including music in senior living.
  • An example of the bad is people referring to music listening as music therapy.

The good people at Music & Memories ℠ are doing their best to meet the need of personalized listening and to spread the word about music therapy.

It is important that we as music therapists do our part to share factual information about this program.Snarky comments of how this is not music therapy are not helpful to those we wish to serve or to our profession.

We as MT-BCs need to be practicing our gracious words of encouragement to those who use this program or regularly schedule entertainment. They do play a role in lives. It is our responsibility to acknowledge the benefits of these programs while delineating how music therapy services differ.

We have some great tools to help us do just that.

  • Members of the American Music Therapy Association have access to guidance in addressing and using Music & Memories ℠.
  • Music therapists Kat Fulton and Rachelle Norman are spearheading an effort  encouraging us to “collaborate, share information and insights, and help each other get the most out of combining music therapy and Music & Memory.” If you are a credentialed music therapists interested in Music & Memories, you may ask to join the Facebook group MTs and M&M.  

The good news!

All this, the whole reality check is good news.

There is a growing population heading into retirement. Whether through wellness programs, rehab, senior living community, or some other venue – we will likely cross the path of many boomers in the years to come.

Programs are being developed that can better meet the needs of those who don’t need our services as well as those who can’t access our services. (The access of services is a topic for another day.) Our job is to be informed and help people in wisely selecting options that meet their needs and their situation.

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