Students + Seniors = Singing

By Ronalynn Butler |  Teacher  |  Lighthouse Christians Academy

What has about 92 legs and sings? The Priory VIM Choir, of course!

Every Wednesday morning, this past Fall, 48 of those legs boarded our school bus and headed off to The Priory Long Term Care Facility to join the other legs! Do you know what was especially awesome about all those legs? They belonged to a very multi-generational group of people. Ages 8-100+, to be exact! They also belonged to hearts and voices joined together to sing and share stories about themselves. While many of the older legs belonged to seniors whose cognitive capabilities were compromised, once the singing started, voices and hearts blended together in joyful song. Age disappeared and melody filled the room. Lots of laughter and love flowed between the students and their senior friends. Attachments formed and excitement was often palpable when we arrived. On both sides, I might add.

I once tried to separate two students who were not seated next to a senior, but to an empty chair between them. Wrong move on my part!

A chorus of protest arose as they were saving that seat for their friend. She arrived in our practice area about 1 minute later, and I only wish I had a photo of all their faces at seeing each other. Big arm waves and bigger smiles!

You see, that is one of the biggest points of the VIM program. Yes, it is a research program with UVic to see if singing can help seniors with dementia by providing a different kind of supportive therapy. However, VIM Choirs break down age barriers and prejudices and build empathy and understanding to these vulnerable people in ALL our communities. If we introduce children to seniors (beyond their own family members), they learn to see, hear, and talk about the things they have in common. They enjoy each other’s company and the happiness level rises. They learn that everyone in our community has value, no matter the number of gray hairs or wrinkles, or where they live.

From this teacher’s point of view, there isn’t a textbook, Twitter, YouTube, or Master’s class you can take in that will build BC’s Core Competencies more solidly into your classroom program. Was it a personal stretch initially for Grades 3-8 students to manage? You bet! But I know 24 pairs of student legs that wouldn’t have missed this opportunity. And I am pretty sure that 22 other pairs of legs, would echo that sentiment!