Research

Dr. Theresa Allison, M.D., M.Music, speaking on the findings of her study of SW programs

“Creating and performing original songs improves quality of life and enables institutionalized elders to remain vibrant and creative.”

SW’s research-proven method is based upon the understanding that all people are born with musical ability and intelligence. Making original music activates social, neural and physical capacities, reduces depression and expands well-being and joy!

Theresa Allison With a Resident of Jewish Home San Francisco
Theresa Allison With a Resident of Jewish Home San Francisco

In 2007, Dr. Theresa Allison, M.D., M.Music studied the impact of Songwriting Works™ participation for elders residing in a skilled continuing care community serving 420 older adults. Dr. Allison followed forty elders, average age 87, over the course of nine months in SW’s Signature Songwriting and its Psalms, Songs & Stories™ (sacred music) programs.

“Songwriting in the nursing home is not a mere activity—it is an opportunity for intellectual, artistic, relational and spiritual growth. As such, it fosters a real sense of neighborhood and transcends the artificiality of the institutional life.”

Dr. Theresa Allison, M.D., M.Music, speaking on the findings of her study of SW programs

Songwriting provides [elders] an opportunity for the creation of heritage, the development of community, the ability to become productive and contributing members of the institutional village in which they reside. Through engagement in songwriting, elders tap into rich stores of memory, combine them with new skills and techniques, and produce tangible cultural products for dissemination within and outside the nursing home. In this way, they are able to transcend the boundaries of the institution both by bringing in memories and relationships that exist outside the physical space of the nursing home and by creating meaningful music that permeates the nursing home and also transcends it—being heard outside the physical space through professional recordings and live performances. ….Through physical products, concerts, memories, and moments of sacred transformation, the elders continue to grow and expand in ways quite unexpected in an institutional setting. To quote one of the songwriters: ‘It’s life-long learning all the time.’” (Allison 2008)

Excerpt from Book chapter 18, Songwriting and transcending institutional boundaries in the nursing home in Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology, Ben Koen, ed. (pp. 240-243). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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