Melodies and Memories
Spark Conversation and Compassion

Mary Kiki Wilcox volunteers in the Health Center of her senior community, taking recorded music, on a CD player, to the residents in the Assisted Living and Skilled Nursing Facilities. They listen together in their weekly “Mostly Music” sessions, or individually, in their rooms. The music she shares ranges from classical to popular standards and show tunes.

“I have been moved by what the residents teach me as they listen to music and then talk together,” Mary Wilcox explains. “I didn’t want to lose what was happening, nor could I be quiet about it. I want people within and outside the Health Center to know about the compassion and enthusiasm of the residents and staff and to expand others’ imagination and vision of what is possible in a health center. And so I began writing stories.…” These stories make up her new book, A Song Just for Me.

Mary’s gift of sharing has had results. Clearly the elderly, even those with dementia, respond positively to music. As the residents listen and talk together, they are moved by this activity and they are having a good time and enjoying each other. The Health Center staff have seen the positive results and have arranged for more of the residents to attend the group sessions and for Mary to take music to the rooms of those who cannot be moved.

When Mary read some of her stories at another health center, members of the staff there wanted to learn more and expressed interest in doing something similar in their facility. Mary hopes A Song Just for Me will encourage more health care professionals—service providers, caregivers, and hospice workers—to offer similar programs.

She fondly recalls an exchange with a bedridden neighbor: “How long did that Mozart concerto take to play?” the patient asked.
“Twenty-five minutes,” Mary answered.
“Just think, for twenty-five minutes I’ve had no pain at all.”

Mary Kiki Wilcox has a Ph.D. from Stanford University, was a teacher and principal in the San Francisco public schools, and senior education researcher at SRI International. She lives at Channing House, a senior community in Palo Alto, California.


A Song Just for Me
by Mary Kiki Wilcox
ISBN 978-1-56474-556-9
96 pages, paperback, $12.00

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