Drum circles for the elderly
Adapted from an item in New Age Journal (USA), monitored for the Institute by Roger Knights.
Mickey Hart, a percussionist for the Grateful Dead, told the United States Special Committee on Ageing that forming drum circles among the elderly would bring 'an immediate reduction in feelings of loneliness and isolation'. Organisers of his Rhythm for Life project plan to send teams of music therapists and professional drummers into nursing homes, hospital, senior centres and elsewhere.
Rhythm for LifeThe development of drum circles for the elderly is only one of the ways in which Rhythm for Life is seeking to develop rhythm's potential as both alternative therapy and a means of forging social solidarity.
Using both musicians and music therapists, the organisation plans to work with a range of different groups. As well as the groups for isolated old folks, they intend to explore the benefits of drumming for people with severe neurological disorders such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. Eminent neurologist Oliver Sacks, who is on the group's advisory council, writes that, "there is, in health, an implicit music which keeps all parts of the brain together - an implicit music rooted foremost in the rhythmicity of all nervous system activity... If, because of damage, disease or age, the nervous system is impaired, then this internal natural music is interfered with, and the need for an external music is overwhelming. Rhythm for Life meets that need by offering percussion-based music therapy to those whose lives can be greatly improved by it."
The organisation also seeks to foster rhythm's capacity for producing a sense of togetherness, by organising "community-based drum circles with the well-elderly, children and other groups to foster communication, social action and a sense of belonging".
They also plan to fund research into these and other aspects of rhythm as "a healing tool".
hythm for Life, 2051 S. Dobson Road, #17-383, Mesa, AZ 85202, USA (tel 00 1 707 874 1051).