‘Meeting others in the moment’ with music: Singer and therapist reduce social isolation for quarantined seniors

Coronavirus

ROUND ROCK, TX (KXAN) — Folks have been cheering up seniors well before the COVID-19 outbreak. But now with social distancing and staying in to stay safe, the musically inclined are even more important to their lives than ever.

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

KXAN met with Meredith Hamons at her home office in Round Rock Friday morning. She is a board-certified music therapist and clinical director at North Austin Music Therapy.

“We’re working on non-musical goals,” Hamons said. “We’re working with clients to improve communication skills, speech skills, motor skills, cognitive skills — all those skills we need in everyday life, just how we’re doing it is through music… We’ve very much actively involving them and engaging them in the process.”

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

That’s music to the ears of the seniors living at The Enclave in Round Rock, where Hamons normally does a “musically-engaged seniors program.” However, due to the active lockdown, she had to modify how she engaged them, which she says she’s used to as a therapist.

Hamons switched up her normal inside routine and “custom-created” a special session performance outside in their courtyard Tuesday morning for residents under quarantine. The local independent living community posted a brief video of the hour-long session on their Facebook page.

Normally we’re working inside communities, and I said, you know, we’re in Texas, it’s Spring, the weather’s perfect. I’m like, we can literally be outside the buildings. So, I came up with the idea. I’ve been pitching it for a few weeks, and this week a residence close to me was like sure, come on out, and so we went on out. We did the group, we did what we do best with a lot of modifications to be outside and it was just a lot of fun.

Hamons said of the experience.

For her, there’s a deeper meaning behind the dancing and decibels.

“Doing music, doing movement, we obviously can’t do everything that we do as therapists,” Hamons said. “But I think as a therapist, the most important thing is meeting our clients in the moment, and meeting them where they are, and meeting their needs right now. And I think right now their biggest need is to still feel connected to each other, still feel connected to the outside world, to still have fun things they can do and participate in, to really make sure we’re reducing social isolation.”

The music didn’t stop there.

‘I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember’

(KXAN Photo/Todd Bailey)

Denise Ray, a certified behavior analyst with Ray’s Hope ABA Therapy reached out to KXAN with a ReportIt message about her 15-year-old daughter Emma. The latter has been singing at a nursing home weekly for over two and a half years before the lockdown.

“I was singing about every week if I could,” Emma said. “It was inside, it was in their living room with a piano.”

Now with the ordinance in place, residents have been without visitors and entertainment. So Emma worked together with the facility coordinator to devise a plan in which she could still sing to them from outside in the courtyards. From there the residents can watch and hear her through their windows.

KXAN met with both of them outside their home in Round Rock Friday morning to learn about her singing outside to seniors. Emma says it means a lot for her to provide them with something to do.

“I sang loud, it projected. I saw their faces through the window and they could hear me, and that’s all that mattered,” Emma said. “It makes me know that I’m helping them, and yeah, it makes me feel good about that.”

The feeling meeting them in the moment isn’t lost on her.

“When I first started going there, I was like nervous and I didn’t know what to expect but as I’ve been familiar with all the residents there, I’ve come to know them and they’ve come to know me, and so just the relationship that I’ve built with the residents. It makes me really appreciate this whole opportunity and experience to be able to do it. I’m really grateful I’m able to do that, Emma said.

Her and her mom hope they will be able to return soon to sing more to the seniors.

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