A collaborative music therapy program has safely engaged small groups of residents socially and challenged them cognitively during the pandemic, says a Cleveland senior living operator.

Director of Community Life Jessica Kulczycki engaging with a Judson resident, pre-pandemic
Director of Community Life Jessica Kulczycki engaging with a Judson resident, pre-pandemic

In a pilot program that kicked off in September, residents of Judson Senior Living were connected with music therapy students from Cleveland State University. Four or five residents from each Judson campus — there are three locations — gather around a large-screen TV for weekly therapy sessions. Each socially distanced group works with their therapist for an hour, connecting via HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platform Zoom for Healthcare.

Participants are able to see and hear each other clearly as they engage in activities such as singing, songwriting, clapping or playing musical instruments provided by Judson. The program has hit its therapeutic marks, and the operator likely will keep it going after the 10-week pilot program ends, said Jessica Kulczycki, community life and care director.

“Isolation can have serious ramifications,” she said. “In addition to therapeutic objectives like making eye contact, following directions, or counting along to the beat, it’s a wonderful opportunity for our residents to just play — to be together, to connect.”

Small groups of residents connect with therapists via Zoom for Healthcare

Residents’ families are involved in the program as well, Kulczycki added. 

“During the referral process, the families are able to let us know what type of music the resident enjoys, and the program can be tailored to their interests. We’ll also be doing screenshots during the sessions that we can share with the family, keeping them informed and involved,” she said.

The student therapists are supervised by their board-certified professors and also look to the Judson activities team for input, suggestions and direction. They benefit from the program as well, gaining the experience of working with an older population and with providing remote services, according to CSU.

“It’s exciting stuff, and a wonderful fit with our mission: Even in the face of COVID, Judson brings community to life,” Kulczycki said.