CWC Awards Finalist: Senior Sing-Along


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Our first Connecting with Community finalist is an organization that works to help give seniors a better, more vibrant life.

The ageing process can be difficult for many individuals, but also for their families. Senior living can be a big help to families with loved ones that need more personal care, but often seniors don’t get the proper mental, emotional, and social stimulation they need. Many seniors in nursing homes can struggle with depression, anxiety, behavioral problems, and agitation.

Jill Dover, one of the founders of Senior Sing-Along and its Executive Director, noticed some of these things when her own grandmother was placed in a home. Jill became concerned because she saw her grandmother deteriorating after a short while; however, music seemed to liven her grandmother.

“Music was the one thing that turned her around, and she would talk about how wonderful life was again. She was able to see the beauty in it again,” Jill says, “It had her moving around where before she was slumped over and unresponsive. So it gave us the idea for our program.”

The program Jill and her family came up with was Senior Sing-Along. Her father initially suggested that they drive around with a karaoke machine and sing to and with seniors. After visiting a restaurant and seeing a live performer, Jill decided that they would hire performers to sing to the seniors they visited and this became their Life Enrichment Program.

“You see decline in sight, hearing, and physical abilities. Music is an easy way to bring in to a facility. It’s a simple pleasure. It would be sad if you can’t go about your day to day activities, or go out to a concert, or see a live band, so we bring it to the community,” says Shay, one of the nurses at Sanctuary at St. Mary’s, a local nursing home.

Senior Sing-Along has grown to serve 67 facilities, 8 counties, and has 120 performers currently working to bring music and entertainment to seniors in West Michigan. With a grant from the Fremon and Keller Foundation, Senior Sing-Along was able to add the Tuned In Program and the Music Therapy Program.

Libby Norris, a music therapist with Senior Sing-Along, works with seniors in music therapy sessions. Libby travels to many different nursing homes in Grand Rapids, including Sanctuary at St. Mary’s, playing music and singing with individuals to help liven their moods. At Sanctuary at St. Mary’s, she held a one on one session with a resident, singing old classics like Hey Jude.

Libby believes in the power of music, especially when it comes to seniors and memory recall. “It can help with memory recall, reminiscence, and is easy to connect with earlier years.”

The Tuned In Program provides personalized ipods to seniors so that they can have access to music at all points of the day. The ipods are loaded with songs that each individual senior likes. It is just one more way that Senior Sing-Along tries to reach the seniors in the community.

Senior Sing-Along has about 20 to 30 volunteers that help with the program during their spare time. Many of them have full time jobs outside the program, but they work to keep it going for the seniors.

“It’s all an act of love from all of us, and that’s why we do it.” – Jill Dover

To hear more stories like Senior Sing-Along, tune in on Fridays to hear from our other Connecting with Community Awards finalists. We will be having our Connecting with Community Awards in May, where we will name one finalist our CWC Award winner.