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Why it's important not to make assumptions about musical preferences

When planning a music session for your care home residents, it can be tempting to make assumptions about what kind of music the residents might enjoy based on their age.

Over the past 20 years classic songs from the 1940s, big band tunes, and nostalgic melodies were often seen as safe, crowdpleasing choices for that demographic. And, these songs may still be fun to sing along to for a special occasion.

However, time has moved on and our experiences of music is much wider, covering many genres and styles. Making assumptions about musical taste, based on age alone, can lead to activities that feel stale and disconnected for many residents.

The truth is, even within a particular age group, musical preferences vary tremendously based on individual backgrounds, life experiences, and personal tastes. Just because someone is in their 90s or over 100 year old, doesn't automatically mean they want to listen to music from the 1930s and 40s. Consider the music that you relate to. How old were you when that music was playing? You may find that you recall music from your childhood, certainly music from your teens and early 20s, and some may be much more recent.

Your residents may even be from a wide demographic, those in their 60s and 70s will have a very different musical history to those older residents in your care home.

Many of your residents will have enjoyed listening to a mix of rock and roll, Motown, folk music, and other genres from the 50s, 60s, and 70s and even 80s and 90s.

This will have shaped their musical identities just as much as big band and crooners did for the previous generation.

Additionally, residents who immigrated to the country at different stages of their lives or who have diverse cultural backgrounds may have completely different musical sensibilities shaped by the traditions and popular music of their home countries and cultures.

Playing only American imported pop standards ignores these musical roots and preferences.

Taking the time to learn about each individual resident's specific musical likes, favourite artists and genres can open up a world of activities involving music that is much more meaningful and engaging. It provides wonderful opportunities for reminiscing, sharing cherished memories, and feeling seen and valued as a whole person.

So the next time you're planning a music activity, instead of making assumptions, start by asking residents about their favourite music and musical experiences from different eras of their lives.

  • Embrace opportunities to celebrate a diversity of genres.

  • Bring in guests who can perform various styles of music that resonate with different residents' backgrounds.

  • You may be surprised by how many residents want to experience rap, salsa, country, or alternative rock alongside or instead of more traditional options.

Using a person-centered approach that celebrates each individual's unique musical biography creates inclusive, joyful experiences residents will be excited to take part in.

A little effort to avoid making assumptions about musical taste can go a long way toward providing meaningful, engaging activities.


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