The Orlando VA Community Living Center (CLC) residents are a vibrant group ofVeterans who do not let their age define their limits.
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 even writing their very own songs.
Unique bonds have formed between musical instructors and 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, expresses how much of a transformation has spurred from the music therapy. "Wow, since day one there has been so much growth! I have seen Veterans increase their interaction. They connect by talking about their lessons and what they learn," she says.
Residents have broken from their shells. Ms. 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 fundamental new way of addressing and managing behaviors."
To be given an opportunity to try what most residents never have experienced has brought genuine excitement. "This has gone above what I was hoping for. 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. It does my heart good," says Ms. Eiland.
One of the residents experiencing the musical 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 in fact 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.
George Meninno, 96-year-old World War II Veteran and CLC resident, is actively enrolled in the program for voice lessons. He says, "The musical therapy has helped me 100%! 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!"
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 Ms.Adams.
Ted Gee, Live Tutor Music President and Veteran, emphasizes musics potential. "Music is a universal language. Being able to participate in something you may never have helps and makes you feel good," he says.
Music therapy works to provide a healthier environment emotionally, physically and mentally. It starts here, at the CLC. The CLC is different from the VA Medical Center. The Medical Center is for veteran services, whereas the CLC is the Veterans home. Music allows residents to feel right at home.
As Mr. Meninno was leaving his music session he said, "I am very anxious and looking forward to the next lesson already!"
The joy that has spread through music is just in time for the holiday carols.Mr. Meninno and many other CLC residents look forward to spreading the holiday spirit with their well-rehearsed carol performances.
By Andrea N. Madrazo