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Samantha Starkey

Samantha Starkey, '19

Music, Laughter, and Joy: A Summer of Therapeutic Music in Senior Living Communities

Samantha Starkey and a SingFit participant laugh together

Research shows that singing has beneficial effects on the mood, cognition, and health of older adults. These findings are the basis of my placement organization last summer, SingFit, a Los Angeles-based startup that uses technology to make therapeutic music more widely accessible for older adults. During my time interning with SingFit, I saw how one-on-one and group therapeutic music sessions in senior living communities enhance the well-being and social engagement of older adults.

At one of my group sessions at a memory care facility, there was a gentleman who at first seemed confused and disgruntled.

"I can't sing. I don't know the words. I can't even hear properly," he complained.

As time went on, he began singing along with the group, and he would suggest songs from musicals like West Side Story, once gracing us with a brief rendition of "Maria" in a mellifluous tenor voice.

One day, we sang the Andrews Sisters song, "Beer Barrel Polka." Most songs have associated dance moves to encourage movement, and we all repeated the "Beer Barrel Polka" move throughout the song: pretending to drink a mug of beer. Afterward, with a deadpan face, he looked at me and mock-sternly cried, "You're over your limit!" The whole group giggled.

That gentleman was just one of the many people who had a profound impact on me this summer. Working with him made me realize that patience, respect, and music can bring out talents, humor, and joy in people.

Samantha Starkey, '19 (Human Biology and Education), served as a Roland Longevity Fellow with SingFit. At Stanford, she has been involved in several Cardinal Commitment student organizations, including Side by Side, The Bridge, and Ravenswood Reads. She is from Vancouver, Canada.
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