How can music help the brain?

In the fall of 2014, we embarked on an awareness campaign to share our work with Canadians.

We wanted to celebrate how the way we care is enhancing the lives of our clients in the present, while our research is informing the future of healthy aging. Since our ad has aired, we’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response. Canadians are curious about our work – just how do we use music to help the aging brain?

We incorporate the arts into everyday life  

With storytelling, dance, creative arts, music therapy and weekly concerts, arts programming enhances quality of life for clients at Baycrest. “They say to us, ‘This is our oxygen, you know, it’s like medicine. It reminds us of who we are,’” says Bianca Stern, executive director of the Culture, Arts and Innovation department.

We study the benefits singing can offer to older adults with cognitive impairment

Dr. Amy Clements-Cortes, senior music therapist, recently led a 3-phase study at Baycrest to examine benefits of choral group participation for seniors. Many benefits emerged from the data, including enhanced feelings of friendship, happiness, relaxation and fun. Due to popular demand, two glee clubs continue as part of our recreational programming – one in the Apotex Centre, Jewish Home for the Aged and one in the Freeman Family Day Centre.

We dance together to engage the body and brain

The dance/movement therapy programs at Baycrest explore the connection between mind and body as a creative outlet for self-expression. We currently offer a Dancing with Parkinson’s program and classes with artistic staff from Canada’s National Ballet School.

We study how music therapy can help people at end-of-life

Dr. Clements-Cortes led a study that looked at the role of music in palliative care. Participants engaged in a variety of interventions including writing songs, recording music to leave as a legacy gift for families, improvising to music, singing and compiling musical autobiographies. Several motifs emerged, including that music therapy provides a safe place to express feelings, enhances communication and acts as a vehicle for reminiscence and revisiting memories.

We offer a new kind of listening experience for seniors with dementia

We’ve partnered with the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto to offer iPods with personalized music to seniors with dementia. Learn more about the program: