My thoughts are ever wending home

As I packed up my music bag, Vivian steered her walker toward me. The determined look on her face told me she had something to say.

“We live in a beautiful place here, but it’s not home,” she told me. “When you play the piano for us, it’s home.”

I was touched, and immediately thought of the old Burt Bacharach/Hal David song, “A House Is Not a Home”:

A chair is still a chair,
Even when there’s no one sitting there.
But a chair is not a house
And a house is not a home
When there’s no one there to hold you tight,
And no one there you can kiss good-night.

Residents of nursing homes and assisted living centers are dealing with a lot of loss. Loss of independence, obviously. And often of a spouse. They’ve had to let go of many of their belongings in order to live in a smaller space. They’ve given up their cars. Someone else now decides the activities of their day, their mealtimes and menus. Physical limitations further narrow their choices.

Elderly people blessed with resilience adapt to their new circumstances and continue to find ways to be happy. Others do not.

When I play songs from the 1930s and ’40s for my older listeners, I’m doing more than entertaining. I’m showing them that I appreciate the times they lived through, that I respect and value the contributions of their generation. I’m saying, You have not been forgotten.

The people I meet in senior facilities have little interest in material things. Instead, they want a sense of home—a place where they feel safe, loved, and cared for; where they’re listened to; where there are interesting and worthwhile things to do, see, and hear. And they want some control over their lives, even if it’s only to request that I play a particular song.

I’m glad I can make their house feel just a little more like home.

Copyright © 2016 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
All rights reserved.


This entry was posted in Music and emotion, Volunteering. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to My thoughts are ever wending home

  1. Jessa says:

    That’s a pretty good compliment. 🙂 I wonder if she has a way to play music in her room.

    • She probably does. But for Vivian and many others like her, there seems to be something especially comforting and homey about having me there to play for them. If I select the right kind of music, I think I take them back to good times past, when they gathered around the piano with their families.

  2. Barbara Cunningham says:

    Very nice insight.

  3. So beautiful. Reading this post reminds me that although we begin to experience the loss of our elders around middle age, there is so much more to come. Friends tell me it deepens our character and makes us wise. It’s nice that Vivian chose to share her wisdom with you.

    • Yes, loss is unfortunately a big part of aging. I learn a lot about how to cope with loss when I talk to people like Vivian. My elderly audiences help me remember what’s important in life.

  4. Sharie Van Gilder says:

    Very thoughtful, thank you for all you do. It is obviously meaningful to the residents and the rest of us.

  5. Aunt Evie says:

    This one brought tears to my eyes. Maybe hit close to home.

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