The Brighter Side

Record delivery man Bob Knutson doesn’t have any training in music or music therapy. For many years, he didn’t even have an especially good ear for it, much less a passion.

But since he inherited 2,000 records several years ago, spreading the joy of music — especially to seniors living in nursing homes and retirement communities — has become his calling.

Knutson’s non-profit Songs for Seniors doesn’t promise therapeutic benefits, just a good old connection to days gone by and, hopefully, a few smiles for all who listen to the vinyl 33 ⅓ s he delivers monthly along a regular route through Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Since 2014, Knutson has donated about 40 towers equipped with modern turntables and speakers to communities. It started as fluke with one nursing home, and the stories he heard from staff there pushed him to find more facilities that would appreciate the resources.

Now he visits every few weeks to rotate albums from his stock of 21,000, often stumbling across long-forgotten favorites of the residents he meets. He leaves behind a notepad for staff and residents to record their requests.

Among the popular genres are country-western, 50s-era oldies, classical and even polka.

Residents are allowed to handle the lovingly cleaned album jackets and watch the records spin. Experts say that can take the experience to a higher level than listening on modern streaming devices.

“It’s bringing everything together,” Gay Wolf, a music therapist at St. Croix Hospice, told KARE-TV. “It’s the visual, tied with the auditory, tied with your emotion related to that.”

Knutson said he shares in the joy of the experience, which the retired welder has funded entirely on his own. (He does accept monetary and record donations, which he stores in donated space.)

“It’s really good for the staff, too,” Knutson told McKnight’s. “The residents are happier and it gives them 30 minutes of peace.”