Music program helping seniors feel less lonely in East End-Danforth

The Green Line team spoke with Music Share for Seniors to learn how the charity is using music to help residents at Main Street Terrace Long-Term Care Home overcome loneliness.

By Amanda Seraphina, Aneesa Bhanji, and Anita Li of The Green Line

One group in East End-Danforth is putting a stop to loneliness by pushing play on their favourite tunes.

From Main Street’s cozy library to an afternoon at Ted Reeve’s Baseball Park, East End-Danforth might seem like the perfect place to retire – but is it really?

Julian DiCarlantonio-Powell, executive director of Music Share for Seniors, thinks otherwise. He tells The Green Line that neighbourhoods with a lower percentage of seniors often lack the necessary support systems tailored to them.

Seniors make up 12 per cent of the population in East End-Danforth, which is four per cent lower than the city average.

“These individuals, I think, are some of the people that face the highest rates of isolation in our communities because there aren’t the necessary support systems in place for them to increase their social interaction and engagement on their own,” says DiCarlantonio-Powell.

Music Share pairs one senior with one volunteer who spends time getting to know them and their musical preferences. Regular conversations help seniors feel more socially connected, while customized playlists reconnect them to their past.

Dina Kotsovolos, a resident at Main Street Terrace Long-term Care Home since 2017, has been using Music Share’s services since September 2023. Kotsovolos loves Tom Jones, whose music she says makes her feel alive.

“Well, before that, I was always in a bad mood, angry – very angry – and sad. But when this fella [David Burton from Music Share for Seniors] came along, we started talking about music …I feel like something is alive with me,” she explains.

By 2031, one in every five Torontonians will be seniors over 65, according to Toronto’s Population Health Profile, which was released in February 2023. DiCarlantonio-Powell says one of the biggest challenges facing an aging population is isolation.

Michelle Pena is working on improving social activities for seniors as recreation manager for Main Street Terrace Long-Term Care Home.

“Senior isolation can affect the mental health of any individual – actually not just seniors, but if you think about it, it’s double for their end because they have chronic illnesses, they have conditions,” Pena explains. “Isolation can really make you depressed, and especially with their lack of physical mobility.”

DiCarlantonio-Powell wants to improve Music Share’s model to support the diverse needs of every senior. Started in 2017, the charity has since helped more than 350 seniors and currently works with 14 healthcare facilities across the Greater Toronto Area.

“If we can take that person-centred approach and apply it at more of a community building aspect, then there’s going to be more systems and more programming and more recreation opportunities for people who are still living at home, and those are the types of things that really keep people healthy into their later life,” DiCarlantonio-Powell says.

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