Intergenerational Music Therapy: Bridging gaps across the lifespan
Updated: Sep 28
*The video and photo attached highlights a research study conducted through the University of Louisville on the implications of intergenerational music therapy*
A parade of shuffling feet, walkers and soft conversation enters the room and slowly takes their seats in a circle formation. Soon after, ten small, marching feet follow suit, giggling as they find their carpet square. There are grins seen throughout the room as instruments are shared, books are read/sung, scarves are waved and conversation is had. This is just a typical snapshot of an intergenerational music therapy session.
By definition, an intergenerational music therapy experience involves the music therapist(s), older adults and children or adolescents. As you can see within the video from the University of Louisville, the music therapists are facilitating all kinds of musical interventions that create opportunities for these two age groups to connect and learn together.
An outsider watching these groups unfold is likely to see both children and older adults displaying a sense of pure joy and delight. From my own personal experience, there a few things that match the look on an older adult's face when they watch the group of children walk into the room. It is clear that the children are also gaining a great deal of social benefits as they interact with older adults and break down any stereotypes they might be conditioned to regarding aging.
Yes, the "warm fuzzies" are most definitely part of intergenerational music therapy sessions. But there is music therapy research that further reiterates why these groups are so important for both older adults and children alike. A study conducted by Belgrave in 2011 found clear increases in children's positive perceptions of older adults and aging after participating in groups. The study also followed older adults, who reported feelings of usefulness and self-worth. In my professional opinion, this evidence ROCKS! These interactions are a powerful way to foster empathy in little ones and also allow older adults to feel purpose and strengthen their well-being.
Let's continue to advocate for innovate music therapy services and bridging gaps across generations. Who is with me?
Belgrave M. The effect of a music therapy intergenerational program on children and older adults' intergenerational interactions, cross-age attitudes, and older adults' psychosocial well-being. J Music Ther. 2011 Winter;48(4):486-508.