Karen Yamazaki has been sharing stories and memories through the power of song since 2008 with the residents of Poplar Ridge Pavilion. Yamazaki is a music therapist and uses her craft to evoke memories and improve overall wellbeing of the seniors.

Music helps stir up memories

Trail's Karen Yamazaki is a music therapist who brings extended care seniors together in weekly sing-a-longs and percussion sessions.

Remember when Gene Autry honky-tonked or Judy Garland crooned over the air waves?

Many Poplar Ridge residents lived through those years and with gentle encouragement from Karen Yamazaki, are able to share the songs along with memories of a golden past.

Yamazaki is a music therapist and for five years has brought the extended care seniors together in weekly gatherings of sing-a-longs, percussion sessions,  and in some cases, one-on-one sharing of melodies.

“Music itself is communication about emotion,” said Yamazaki. “For people who have difficulty speaking or dementia, when I play a song they’ll recognize it and start singing the chorus.

“Quite often a few songs seem to oil things and they are better able to express thoughts and ideas.”

As an accredited music therapist, Yamazaki uses the creative process inherent in musical participation to assist the seniors, many stricken with dementia and neurological disorders, to improve their mental, social, and emotional well-being.

Yamazaki recalled a gentleman who lives in the Pavilion and carries only a single word into conversations related to challenges with mechanics of speech, including an inability to move his lips and lack of supportive breath.

“But I can play ‘There is a tavern in this town,’ and the fellow is singing without effort,” she said. “It is amazing because he is fluent for the entire verse whereas regular speech for him is just one word.”

Yamazaki’s twice a week afternoon sessions are sometimes taken into the resident’s room if the person is unable to join the group, and strumming songs on the guitar specifically selected for the senior provides intimate comfort for sharing of stories.

“The most important thing is the music has to be something you like for the best effect,” said Yamazaki.

“If I can identify a type of music or singer, quite a few enjoy old county western, I will share the songs in their room.”

She has heard many stories about decades-old memories such as a country song called “Golden Slippers,” reminding a senior of dancing to her father’s fiddle during hard times growing up in the prairies, or classical Beethoven symphonies stirring up another’s memory of attending concerts in England with her mother.

“One of the beauties of music therapy is that it can bring all of the residents together regardless of their level of dementia. And it’s fun for me to see them singing or tapping their foot.”

Research indicates that music therapy can improve physical comfort, lift the spirits and improve responses from those in late stages of dementia, although why this happens remains unanswered.

“They haven’t figured out why it is working,” she said. “But seeing how these folks really focus in a music session and how they are alive and really bright is just wonderful to see.”

Just Posted

Trail Smoke Eaters grind out win over Vernon Vipers

Trail Smoke Eaters Kent Johnson scored the game winner in a 3-2 victory over the Vernon Vipers

Tea, crafts, music and dance this weekend in Greater Trail

Grapevine: Events in the Trail area for the week of Nov. 15 to Nov. 21

Car accident prompts advisory from Greater Trail RCMP

Extrication by regional firefighters; driver and passenger walked away with minor injuries

Trail mayor announces task force to address crime

Coun. Sandy Santori was appointed to the Community Safety Task Force

Castlegar’s Waterline property purchased; owners to protect it for rock climbers

New owners plan to subdivide, sell bluffs to recreational climbing group

Extreme Education and Career Fair helps give back to the community

It’s estimated that there will be one million job vacancies in the next nine years in B.C.

Dead Saskatoon tattoo artist’s skin removed and preserved

The skin was removed in honour of the well known artist’s work

B.C. Realtor suspended after helping intern forge note about sick grandma

Vancouver real estate agent Jaideep Singh Puri has to pay fine, take ethics course

Offensive Facebook post by Okanagan Conservative riding sparks outrage

Post taken down after Conservative MP in neighbouring riding condemns it and demands removal

Judge rules against ALC on rural B.C. subdivision

The ALC can’t change the definition of an acre, the judge ruled.

John Horgan shrugs off low turnout, change to referendum option

‘No’ proportional representation group says voting should be extended

Two more government pot shops to open in Kamloops

Two private applications are also in the queue to come before city council by the end of the year

2 B.C. men charged after allegedly stealing $1,400 worth of butter

The two men, ages 23 and 25, are facing charges of theft under $5,000, Coquitlam police said

Invasive fire ants join the tourist swarms at Hawaii Volcano National Park

Invasive species found at popular tourist destination

Most Read