The Zahalon Geriatric Center provides music therapy services to three groups: patients with Alzheimer’s, patients who are bedridden (also called “tshushim”), and “normal” elders who live independently in the community and visit the Center a few times a week for social, therapeutic and learning purposes. One of the most successful projects at the Center, to date, has been a music therapy program with elderly individuals living in Jaffa. This group consists of twenty people, mostly women, age seventy and up, who arrived in Israel prior to its independence and took part in building the country. Most individuals in the group come from low socio-economic neighborhoods. All have good expressive language; however some are illiterate and suffer from various health issues such as physical disabilities and depression.
Music therapy sessions are offered by a trained music therapist, once a week, for one hour. Overarching goals are to improve self-confidence, strengthen daily coping skills, enhance overall mood and bring joy and fulfillment. Sessions begin with an improvisation on various percussion instruments. Next, the music therapist facilitates a group singing experience in which members sing a variety of old and familiar songs that are meaningful for them. During a discussion following the singing, group members share childhood memories as well as national and personal issues related to peace and security in the region, family and health. Special attention is given to songs concerning group member’s love for Israel and the strong connection to their country. By singing these songs together, each individual gains a sense of empowerment and belonging that sustains them outside of the music therapy group and into their communities.