“It has been such a positive experience!”
That’s what life enrichment specialist Cari Helbig says of facilitating the Java Music Club, a grant-funded program for Woodland Park residents that began in the fall of 2021.
The program aims to combat depression and loneliness through peer support and the belief that people are happiest when they are helping each other. A key part of this transformative process is that every participant has a valuable role to play.
Every Friday, Cari leads a small group of residents through the selection of a “theme” for the session. The theme corresponds to the season and is chosen by a different resident each week. Another resident is the official chime strummer, designating the beginning and end of the session, while yet another selects the songs. Everyone is given an instrument to play.
“It’s been really rewarding to see the progression from week to week. Some residents were a little hesitant in the beginning, but everyone has come to be so encouraging and affirming with each other, said Cari.”
After a welcome and time of centering, a theme is chosen from a provided list. The theme has corresponding music, photography, readings and questions that are then discussed among the group. Acceptance, letting go and peace are some themes the group has covered.
A traditional Aboriginal Talking Stick is passed from person to person, as each has an opportunity to share. The talking stick is a visual aid to honor each person’s time to speak and a reminder that everyone present possesses wisdom and courage.
“The residents really listen to and encourage one another. They are so patient, making sure no one is left out, said Cari. "They’ve even included staff passing by, asking them to share something on the topic being discussed.”
After each person has had time to share, the group ends the session with a closing song and affirmation.
I love, accept and appreciate all of me,
Just as I am today.
I bring understanding and compassion,
And I receive understanding and compassion.
I bring love and I receive love.
I bring peace and I am at peace.
The Java Music Club is part of the Java Group Programs and also includes Java Memory Care and Java Mentorship. This group of programs are the first standardized peer support interventions designed to combat depression and loneliness in older adults through peer support—residents helping residents.
The program is funded on the VMRC campus via a grant from LeadingAge Virginia.
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