APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – A singalong program in Appleton is helping senior citizens in memory care.
It’s called ‘Our Generation Sings’ and husband and wife duo Fran and Joanne Ebben are the founders. On Monday afternoon, Local Five News sat in on one of their shows at Primrose Retirement Community of Appleton.
About two dozen residents were in the audience, many of whom are part of Primrose’s memory care community.
“I hope they take away a smile, I hope they take away the warmth in their heart, and as they’re experiencing all the good memories I hope that stays with them awhile,” said Fran Ebben.
Ebben creates a playlist among a pool of 312 songs. All of the songs are ones he feels like most of his audience will recognize and he hopes that hearing them will unlock good memories from earlier in life.
Another big part of the show is audience participation. Ebben and caregivers at Primrose polka dance and chicken dance with residents and they lock arms with residents in the lead-up to the chorus of ‘Sweet Caroline.’
“Music just improves everybody’s well-being, it lifts up everybody’s spirits,” said Cassie Tolsma who is the Memory Care Director at Primrose. “Especially when people have dementia or memory issues it seems to rise up everybody’s spirits.”
Ebben said they rotate between retirement communities they visit throughout the year. Many of their audience members have different stages of dementia. Ebben said he recalled a time when after the show he approached a woman who had been singing all the songs in the program. He asked her what her name was and she replied that she couldn’t remember.
Ebben said this is an example of the power of music to help reactivate our memories because the woman was able to remember the lyrics to old songs even though she couldn’t remember her name.
He said he hoped the show would bring people joy.
“It’s the highest reward we can get to see the smiles on people’s faces,” he said.
“They’ve brought so many smiles to people all their lives and now it’s our turn to give them smiles,” said Tolsma.