For many, music is a creative outlet that can connect us to emotions, inspire us to move, sing, and dance, and acts as the soundtrack to life’s most important moments. There is no doubt that music plays a significant role in life’s key moments, and research has also proven music to be a powerful medicine, especially for seniors. This is due in part to the provision of significant amounts of mental, physical, and emotional stimulation that are vital to one’s overall health and wellbeing. However, for three residents of Abbotswood at Stonehenge, music is more than a pastime or creative outlet. It is part of the soul and spirit, that often heals the wounds medicine cannot touch.
June Hood, 94, has been playing piano ever since she can remember. For Hood, music is a way to connect with others and cultivate family traditions. Growing up, she had fond memories of listening to her mother play the piano. Unfortunately, her mother soon experienced a stroke that prevented her from playing. Since then, June has seen music and playing the piano as a means to honor her mother and continue her legacy.
“Music is like family in a way. I love being able to follow in my mother’s footsteps,” says Hood. “Now I have two grandchildren who also play piano, which has formed a tradition and created a bond that will last in our family forever.”
Over 20 years ago, Hood was invited to play at Abbotswood at Stonehenge for the first time, where she showcased her talent by playing Broadway and classical pieces on piano. Following the unfortunate passing of her husband, Hood desired a place that felt like home, and knew she had already found it in Abbotswood at Stonehenge. Since moving into the community five years ago, June has continued her musical passions by performing for other residents during church services, holiday events and impromptu performances on quiet afternoons.
“There is so much happiness to be spread in the community,” says Hood. “Playing for others makes me happy, and here I have that privilege, which means a lot to me.”
Phillip Sebastian, 84, is another talented pianist and vocalist in the community. He took his first piano lesson at only five years old, and that early interest carried his music passions through college, where he majored in music and minored in voice. Sebastian then channeled his musical gifts for over 30 years while serving as a Lutheran minister, and 12 years as a choir director in North Carolina.
“Despite anything that might be going on, music has always been a constant,” notes Sebastian. “Sometimes I just like to sit down and play the piano.”
Sebastian has maintained a love for music throughout his life, which only continued to blossom after moving to Abbotswood at Stonehenge last summer. With support and inspiration that he draws from his family and loved ones; Sebastian performs at least once a month in the community. One of his favorites and most recent performances was on Valentine’s Day, where he helped spread the love throughout the community by performing classic love songs. “Performing here keeps me on my toes,” says Sebastian. “It keeps my skills sharp and is very therapeutic for me.”
When Jim Parker, 67, was only 8 years old, his aunt gifted him an acoustic guitar for Christmas. Little did he know, this gift would lead to nearly sixty years of memories, fostering a relationship with music that could best be described as devout. Parker took private lessons in jazz, classical, and folk guitar throughout his youth, and even played in a rock n’ roll band in high school where he performed at many school dances sporting a Les Paul electric guitar. “I learned to play with my own unique style,” says Parker.
Although Parker enjoyed his time playing rock n’ roll, his true passion for music manifested in church, where he collected a repertoire of hymns that he still plays for residents at the community today. “I see music as a worship experience,” says Jim. “I enjoy singing and playing hymns and bringing others together to sing along.”
After the passing of his beloved wife ten years ago, Parker fell a bit out of touch with music. Over time, he was able to pick it back up through performing at other senior living communities and churches. However, Parker maintains that if he hadn’t moved to Abbotswood at Stonehenge a year ago and received encouragement from the community, he might not be playing as much.
“Abbotswood got me back into playing guitar,” says Parker. “I started to practice again and bring myself back up to speed. My first performance at the community was a year ago and I have been performing ever since.”
June Hood, Phillip Sebastian, and Jim Parker’s love for music thrives at the community today, and their performances are highly anticipated events amongst their fellow residents at the community. Their love for music is supported by the team and residents at the community, who view them as an inspiration to continue to pursue one’s passions throughout life.
“It is wonderful to be part of a community that has residents with so much talent to share,” says David Sexton, executive director of Abbotswood at Stonehenge. “The entire community comes together for their performances, and it is a true privilege to witness the gift they possess flourishing within Abbotswood at Stonehenge.”
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