Amazing Grace Superstar: The great question of sacred or show-tune music

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Gary Tetz
Gary Tetz

Nothing is clear these days — in long-term care or life. Everything's brutally ambiguous. We're living an endless good-news, bad-news life loop, where all the things we think are good for us will eventually also prove our demise. Coffee. Chocolate. Wine. They're our salvation, and our downfall, so it's impossible to know what to think or do. About anything.

Which brings us to one of the great imponderables of our existence: Should seniors listen to religious music or sing along to show tunes? Long-debated, never settled — like the dangers and opportunities of global warming or the risks and benefits of poison. So as scientists methodically stare at the official Broadway soundtrack to Phantom of the Opera through their little microscopes and play Gaither Vocal Band Youtube videos to monkeys, older adults wait patiently for answers. Real answers.

Fortunately, a bunch of researchers from a bunch of big-time universities decided to give up on fighting drug-resistant bacteria and finding cures for cancer to devote their lives to whether older adults benefit from listening to sacred songs. They found increases in life satisfaction and self-esteem, along with decreases in anxiety about mortality, according to McKnight's. That's good, right?

Well, not so fast, Mormon Tabernacle Choir — don't start counting that surge of boomer downloads quite yet. Somewhere, another group of scientists has also been hard at work determining if singing jaunty show tunes out loud can help combat dementia. Apparently, it can, though it's kind of hard to know for sure since they sang the study results to the tune of “Don't Cry for Me, Argentina.”

What does any of this mean for activity directors? It means you better have a big box of noise-cancelling headphones handy, and learn the words to the “Sound of Music.” And when a resident can't decide whether to listen or sing, just say, “How are we going to solve that problem, Maria?”


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Things I Think

Things I Think is written by longtime industry columnist Gary Tetz, who resides in Portland, OR. Since his debut with at the end of a previous century, he has continued to amuse, inform and sometimes befuddle long-term care readers worldwide.