Eurovision winner Niamh Kavanagh’s performance for residents at a Co Wicklow nursing home has been called “better than medicine”, as the power of music in care facilities is highlighted this week.
An advocacy group is holding an event, Music Speaks, coinciding with Nursing Homes Week, which aims to highlight the memory-jerking and communicative power of melodies for people living in care facilities.
This will see more than 100 residents in 30 nursing homes singing and playing music for an online performance that will be shared with other nursing homes.
This includes 100-year-old Peig Ryan, a traditional musician and music teacher, performing Peig Ryan’s Polka at St Anthony’s Nursing Home in Pallasgreen, Co Limerick, and Tess Steedman, 98, a resident of Orwell Healthcare in Rathgar, Dublin, performing a piano solo.
Marking the 30th anniversary of Kavanagh’s Eurovision win, she performed the winning song In Your Eyes to residents, as well as singing Abba’s Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! with the Mobile Music Machine musicians.
The performance is due to be played in nursing homes this week.
“I get to interact with people who have a history and something to give back, and sometimes you get more than you want, but it is always amazing,” Kavanagh said.
“It’s a very emotional thing to be involved in, and it just brings me joy.”
Head of operations at Asgard Lodge Paddy Walsh said the event “was simply magic”.
“You could see the adrenaline rushing through the residents’ veins, and staff members’ as well,” he told the PA news agency.
“It was basically a shot of positive energy through the whole home, it made such a difference to the residents’ lives. It made such a difference to the family members’ lives as well because all of a sudden everybody was having a quality interaction that they all aspire for. The simple word is magic.”
He added: “What music does is it gets through to their memories where maybe they remember a time they danced to Abba with their son or daughter and it releases those positive memories.
“It puts the residents in a much better humour, we could see residents were chatting about the performance – not just the hour after, the day after, it was actually the week after. It makes such a difference to their lives.
“In today’s day and age, there seems to be many parts of society leaning towards medication, but we said this before, what Niamh Kavanagh and the Mobile Music Machine produced is better than anything that comes out of a bottle.
“It’s the best form of medicine that we can prescribe.”
Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive Tadhg Daly said: “Nursing homes are home to truly very special people, who are tremendous characters and have a rich legacy in song and music.
“Our Music Speaks performance encompasses one resident who is 100 years of age playing accordion, a 98-year-old delivering an excellent piano solo, a 95-year-old singing Boys From The County Armagh.
“Residents love to sing and perform and the Music Speaks extravaganza honours the talents of the very special people in our society who are nursing home residents.
“Music fulfils an absolutely integral role in nursing home care, providing comfort to residents, stimulating memories, bringing them together, and it gives great joy and happiness.”