Volunteers’ music is a balm of love for nursing home residents


Last Updated on July 30, 2015 – 11:30 AM CDT

Above: Thelma Smith, on piano, leads a group of volunteers each Thursday for 45 minutes of singing at the Memorial Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. James Frame, left, is one of the faithful volunteers.

Thelma Smith doesn’t know she’s a therapist, but the music she plays for nursing home residents evokes memories that are usually lost in their day-to-day lives, kick-starting emotions suffocated by dementia and other memory-robbing diseases.

“I started singing at the nursing home on Maddox in 1987, and I never get tired of it,” Smith said. “If I can bring a smile to one person, it’s worth it.”

Each Thursday, Smith and a group of volunteers meet at Memorial Nursing and Rehabilitation Center to sing with the residents. They do it faithfully and with smiles, convinced that music is the universal language that can reach into every soul and mind.

“There was one lady who always asked me to play ‘Remember Me’ because her boyfriend, many years ago, proposed after singing it to her,” Smith said.

Curtis Bishop, MNRC activities director, said the many of the residents remember the songs, and it helps keep their minds active.

“They love singing along, and it’s amazing how some of them remember every word when they struggle with other memory loss,” Bishop said. “The volunteers are an important part of the residents’ lives.”

Another volunteer, Marion Gion, did a comedic rendition of “Too Old To Cut The Mustard” and said the singing makes the residents and the volunteers feel “so good.”

“We love coming here and singing,” he said. “It does all of our hearts good. It gives us purpose, and it helps the residents remember they have purpose, too. They know they’re still important.”

You can watch a short video of the volunteers and residents singing Thursday.