The Orlando VA Community Living Center (CLC) residents are a vibrant group of Veterans who do not let their age define their limits. Just ask Army Veteran George Meninno, 96! (Pictured above)
Twice a week, these young at heart Veterans participate in personalized Live Tutor Music therapy lessons. These lessons range from singing, playing their keyboard, strumming guitars, or writing their own songs.
“Music therapy has helped me one hundred percent.”
Unique bonds have formed between the musical instructors and the residents. An instructor and a resident individually meet for 45 minutes to learn and practice their musical talent. Each resident is assigned their own personal instructor to consistently meet with every session.
Mara Adams, CLC Administrative Officer, states, “This is more than just a music lesson. It gives residents something to look forward to as they know twice a week they have something special they absolutely love to do.”
Anitra Eiland, CLC Nurse Manager: “Wow, since day one there has been so much growth as I have seen Veterans increase their interaction. They connect by talking about their lessons and what they learn.”
A new way of managing behaviors
Residents have broken from their shells, Adams says. “The impact music therapy has on the residents is phenomenal. It goes beyond the medicines, the health care treatments, or even the standard recreational therapy practices. When integrated with all the other interventions and programs offered at the CLC, music therapy is a fundamentally new way of addressing and managing behaviors.”
The opportunity to try what most residents have never experienced has brought genuine excitement. “This has gone above what I was hoping for and it warms my heart to see the Veterans flourish. I am a Veteran, so it is personal for me. I see them go to the next level and the excitement they have,” says Eiland.
One of the residents experiencing music therapy has never touched an instrument before and is now able to wish a special Happy Birthday on his keyboard. Another resident with a spinal cord injury never thought he would be able to strum a guitar, and is now able to play songs with his son.
These seemingly small feats are giant milestones toward healing souls, increasing quality of life, improving manual dexterity, sharpening memory skills and strengthening relationships between Veterans and their supporting CLC Staff.
Meninno, 96-year-old World War II Veteran, is actively enrolled in the program for voice lessons. He says, “The musical therapy has helped me one hundred percent. I am breathing better, I am learning, and I am singing better. Before, I thought I was singing well, but now I have much better vocal chords. This has helped me to improve and I am looking forward to the next lesson already.”
With all the possibilities music brings, the CLC team is still amazed at the love the residents have for their instruments.
“When you have something that touches the soul and the mind and you couple it with something that touches the body, all elements combine into a holistic approach that has proven to produce better outcomes on all levels,” says Adams.
About the author: Andrea N. Madrazo is a Public Affairs Specialist TCF Trainee at the Orlando VA Medical Center
Photos by Joseph Nunez