Bridging The Gap with Intergenerational Music Programming

Intergenerational Programming is becoming increasingly popular, and benefits are being seen in increasing social engagement and quality of life. These dynamic social experiences include any structured activity simultaneously involving persons from two

[or more] different generations. Here at Spectrum, we love seeing how music and art bring people of all ages and abilities together, and seek out opportunities to facilitate meaningful connections and experiences through the creative arts. Shelby Dahl, one of Spectrum’s board-certified music therapists, was recently asked to lead an intergenerational music program at a local senior living center for residents and community members. Here are Shelby’s thoughts about this creative experience, and the impact of intergenerational music-making on persons of all ages:.


What are some of the benefits of intergenerational programming?

The benefits are enormous, and you can see the smiles on the participant’s faces as soon as the kids run into the room–their faces light up! The children bring so much joy to the folks in these facilities, and absolutely contribute to increasing quality of life and decreasing feelings of isolation. For many older adults, just being around children can also be a motivating factor in increasing movement, engaging in singing, dancing, and structured conversation. It can also trigger happy memories of being with children or grandchildren.

For children, intergenerational programming is great for developing social skills! Kids become more comfortable with people of all ages, as these types of programs work towards cultivating positive attitudes towards older generations. For the really young kids, many of them love the extra individualized attention that the seniors can provide!


How does music help clients from different generations connect?

Music is a familiar, engaging, and non-threatening medium that works as a tool to provide opportunities to engage and interact with each other. Imbedding these interactions within a fun and positive music experience creates an environment where everyone across all generations can feel safe, playful and relaxed.


How is a typical intergenerational group music session structured? What does it look like?

I always start with a hello song that serves as an “ice breaker.” The kids and seniors introduce themselves, give high fives, hand shakes, fist bumps, and sometimes even make silly sounds or faces!

We often sing a familiar children’s song that kids and adults would both know and have the kids/adults share or trade an instrument or musical prop during an instrument playing or movement activity.

Playing “Freeze Dance” with scarves is always a hit because it can be done sitting or standing, and the kids and adults really let loose! I also like to have kids pass out and pick up instruments/props! There are so many different activities that could fill a session, but the main goal is providing as many opportunities for meaningful interaction as possible. At the end of the session, we sing a goodbye song as a group.


As an instructor of intergenerational programming, what are some of your goals when leading a session?

The main goals that I’m looking to address are increasing social interaction and engagement between the group members whether it be movement, singing, instrument playing or conversation, and developing positive attitudes towards older/younger generations. I always like to see how things develop organically, and adjust what I’m doing in the moment based on what I am seeing within the session.

Intergenerational programming is trending across the healthcare professions, as these collaborative experiences cultivate opportunities to bridge gaps that come to exist amongst persons of varying ages. Each generation possesses experiences and insights that are often unique to that generation, and benefit from being shared across generations and social cultures to provide a more in-depth look at how we, as humans, continue to evolve and grow across time. For more information about intergenerational programming and how you can become involved, contact our front office at, or by phone at (585) 383-1999.

By | 2017-03-15T18:50:18+00:00 January 10th, 2017|Blog, Music Therapy, Video|0 Comments

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