KeepHealthCare.ORG – Young and old share power of music in rhythm band at Mariposa Gardens – Osoyoos Times
At Mariposa Gardens, a group of seniors sits at tables around the edge of a room, many in wheelchairs. They’re about to make music as a rhythm band.
Soon, a large group of pre-school children from the Osoyoos Child Care Centre is led into middle. They’ll be accompanying the seniors.
Last Wednesday was the second time that MaryLou Primeau has brought together the two groups, whose age difference exceeds a century.
Primeau is a local piano teacher with a background as a special education teaching assistant. She’s also a ball of energy who believes strongly that music has healing powers.
Although she’s not formally a music therapist, she’s taken many related courses and has used music when she works with people with special needs.
“I always start my sessions with the song, ‘I Believe in Music,’ because I totally believe in music,” says Primeau, referring to the Mac Davis song from 1971. “From what I’ve seen, the way it can trigger in a three-year-old to a 103-year-old, there’s just so many facets that are amazing.”
The ages of the people in the combined rhythm band reach from two-and-a-half-year-old Lennon Winterlik all the way to 103-year-old Bea (Bernice) Graham, who Primeau says is still sharp. She was playing a drum.
Primeau has been conducting separate weekly rhythm band groups at the Osoyoos Child Care Centre and Mariposa Gardens for more than a year.
As many as 40 residents at Mariposa participate in the sessions, with some playing the instruments and others, like last week, attending to watch.
Among the regular participants is Stan Stodola, who founded the Osoyoos Times in 1947, and will be 96 this month.
“I love Stan,” said Primeau. “He’s so much fun.”
Primeau said she’s wanted the two age groups to play together since she started doing the separate rhythm bands in March 2017.
“My goal from the beginning, as soon as I realized I was doing it in both places, I wanted the two to connect,” she said. “It’s not something we really rehearsed, but I have all the same instruments and the same songs. It’s mostly things that they can just jam to. They don’t have to prepare for it.”
But the flu season has meant that after one gettogether last fall, the two groups couldn’t meet again until last week.
“We went in before flu season, but it was such a long flu season,” she said, noting that children are kept away from the seniors as a precaution.
Primeau was excited to learn last week that the youngsters and seniors will be able to do joint sessions once a month until the next flu season again puts a halt to their meetings.
The seniors enjoy seeing the children and several comment that it makes them feel young again.
“They were thrilled,” said Primeau. “Everybody had lots of fun. The seniors left, talking about it all day long.”
Some of the children were a little bit uneasy around the seniors, perhaps not used to being around people in that age group. But Primeau said they enjoyed it.
“They always have interesting questions afterwards,” she said, wondering for example why the seniors are in wheelchairs.
Still, Primeau finds similarities between the two groups – especially when she hands out the different rhythm-making instruments such as the long, coloured Boomwhackers.
The pre-schoolers tell her they want particular colours.
“I want a red one, I want a blue one, I want a green one,” she imitates. “And that happens at Mariposa all the time too.”
When she gets these demands, Primeau has a little saying: “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset.”
The instruments, and how the kids used them, play a role in their development. And for the seniors too, they also give clues about cognitive abilities, which Primeau reports to Mariposa staff.
“I need to report and watch whether they are following instructions and playing the instrument the way I show them,” she said, noting that she pays more attention to this when she works with just the seniors.
Primeau grew up in Edmonton in a musical family. In addition to her training as a special education teaching assistant, she also studied at the Royal Conservatory of Music.
Her parents retired to Osoyoos. After her father died a few years ago, Primeau moved here from White Rock to live with and care for her mother, now 93, who still lives in her own home.
And she’s built a music studio in the garage, where she gives lessons and hopes to facilitate more small group rhythm band sessions for children and those with special needs.
Primeau says she began by volunteering at Mariposa Gardens, but it turned into a contracted position. She especially credits Jannine Rennie, who directs the recreation program at Mariposa, with supporting the rhythm band.
“She got all excited about my music passion and my rhythm instruments and loved the idea of bringing this and more to the seniors,” said Primeau. “She has been ordering more instruments as her budget has become available. She is a strong supporter of music care for the elderly.”
Primeau invites people interested in having her facilitate a rhythm band session to contact her by email at [email protected]
“It’s amazing how music is healing,” she said. “It’s powerful. Just getting the elderly or whoever to shake an instrument as the same time as singing, just triggers more neurons in the brain. There’s just so much that goes on in the brain with the power of music.”