The World War II generation is slowly aging and passing from the scene, leaving us a rich musical heritage. Their favorite songs are also enjoyed by baby boomers- children who grew up in the 1950’s and absorbed their parent’s musical culture. Rhythmic and melodic vocals are prominent with subdued but harmonically pleasing accompaniment.
Who doesn’t like Johnny Mercer’s “I Remember You”, “It Had to Be You”, or timeless melodies by Irving Berlin like “Cheek to Cheek” or Jerome Kern’s “The Song Is You”? Keep in mind that people have a special attraction to music they heard when they were young. Therefore, seniors born before 1940 will enjoy hearing a few selections from around the turn of the century because not only were those songs still being played in the 1940’s and 50’s, but they often remind them of their mother.
A musical program that elicits a range of emotions is more satisfying that one that is relentlessly upbeat. After all, people like movies and novels that make them laugh and cry. Choose a few songs that are somber, sad, or sentimental like “Theme from Summer of ‘42”, “I’ll Walk Alone”, “Since I Fell for You”, “I’ll Be Seeing You”, or Danny Boy”. Overall the music should be cheerful and bright. “Tuxedo Junction,” Time After Time” and “Jersey Bounce” are examples of upbeat popular songs from the 1940’s.
The goal of a musical program for seniors should be to revive memories and help them escape what may be a lonely or boring existence. Individuals experience each song differently. Romantic tunes remind them of when they danced with their spouse as a young couple.
Songs from the 1940’s remind them of when they were reunited with their loved ones after the war. For the most part, the people who survived the great depression and WWII have strong religious faith. They appreciate a closing song or two with a spiritual emphasis. When they come together to hear songs they all love, whether listening to a live performance or a recording, the group experience is emotionally gratifying.
Musical entertainment of this nature is therapeutic in that it activates long term memory and connects people to their past and each other, while tapping into moods from a more buoyant and optimistic epoch. When the music makes a connection to the person’s past, it relieves isolation and loneliness, and gives hope and encouragement for the future.