Interview with Liz Morgan, MT-BC on Geriatric Music Therapy

New month means a new theme and an interview with another wonderful music therapist!  

Our theme this month is Geriatrics, with a focus on piano music!  I had the brilliant opportunity to speak with Liz Morgan, MT-BC last week about her work with older adults.  Liz attended Baldwin Wallace University and graduated in 2013.  She began her internship in June of 2013 at Metro Health Rehab of Ohio and completed it in December of 2013.  While an intern, Liz primarily worked with stroke, TBI, and spinal cord patients.  

For the past year and a half, Liz has worked at Levindale Hebrew Geriatric Center.  She works with older adults in the long term unit, ventilator unit, and does both group and individual sessions.  Levindale focuses on person centered care through their, “Eden Alternative Care Philosophy.”  This is a form of cultural change where the facility brings in life for the residents.  This can look like, having plants and animals in the facility, promoting intergenerational programs, or even facilitating a bell tone group.  The focus is on the residents to have opportunities to continue to grow and learn while living at Levindale.

With the geriatric population, Liz focuses upon a multitude of goals.  Some that she identified specifically are quality of life based: increased social engagement, increased mood, decreased anxiety, and decreased agitated behaviors.  “It’s important to provide opportunities to make choices,” Liz informed me.  “Whether that be through instrument choice, song choice, or even to disengage.” She has found that through these goals, her clients have found continued purpose.  In one case, her client was referred through hospice for 1:1 sessions.  Liz has observed now this particular client frequently joins many programs and is much more active after participating in music therapy!

Liz has taught some adapted music lessons on the piano.  “The adapted lessons also provide the clients with a “purpose” […] It’s also great for improving cognitive function and memory,” she explains.  As piano is an instrument that many people have a relationship with, it can be a powerful instrument.  Liz mentioned that she was recently asked to teach some adapted lessons.  She shared with me, “92 years old and was telling me her original piano lessons cost her 75 cents for an hour. Can you imagine? My how times have changed!”  Boy, how they have!  I think we all are glad that we don’t make $0.75 an hour!!

In her work on the ventilator unit, Liz shared that frequently family members are present.  “I will encourage the family to join in–they can be a great resource,” she told me.  Inviting family members to sing and play along can be a wonderful experience for not only the client, but for those who are participating.  They are also a great resource to identifying preferred music.  Of course, it’s also a great advocacy moment to further educate others about music therapy!

Liz has shared with us her top 10 songs for working with Elderly Adults!  They are the following:

  1. Sunshine on my Shoulders – John Denver
  2. Que Sera Sera
  3. White Cliffs of Dover
  4. Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree
  5. It’s A Good Day
  6. Edelweiss
  7. Down in the Valley
  8. Peace Like a River
  9. Raisins and Almonds (Traditional Jewish Lullabye)
  10. What a Wonderful||Somewhere Over the Rainbow – IZ

Although #10 isn’t technically from the mid-20th century, Liz has found it to be a favorite of her clients.  

Now let’s open up the conversation to you all!  What songs have you used in therapy with older adults?  Have you used any of these in session?  Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

A big thank you goes out to Liz for sharing her practice with us!  It was truly lovely to talk with you and learn about your work!  

Wishing you all the best!


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