‘He’s a Music Man’ for United Church Homes
By Ashley Bills, corporate communications manager, United Church Homes. Photos provided by Howard Cole. Reprinted with permission from the Winter 2022 issue of Spirit.
Howard Cole has been with United Church Homes for five years, serving as the Music & Memory Program coordinator, where he supports residents with the set up and delivery of Music & Memory, a program that taps the memories of those living with dementia through music they enjoyed in their past.
Cole began his time with UCH as an intern at The Fairhaven Community and is now affectionally known as “The Music Man” at nine communities in Ohio, a title and role Cole says he is happy to have earned.
Cole’s responsibility is to discover through an interview with individual residents what type of music they like and what songs are meaningful to them. After the interview he puts the music on a personalized music player, such as an iPod, filled with songs and personalized play lists they cherish. As technology evolves, Cole says many older adults lose the ability to pay their music. With the personalized mp3 players, Cole is able to spark sometimes forgotten memories so residents can once again enjoy treasured moments in their lives and experience the joy music brings.
Cole enjoys connecting to residents through music. “It’s rewarding to see the look of joy on a resident’s face when they hear one of their favorite songs and start singing along,” he said.
In addition to his primary role, Cole brings his guitar with him to every community and periodically plays concerts for the residents. Cole plays a variety of songs and hymns from all decades and encourages the residents to join in or call out a favorite. “I love it when people start telling stories in between songs and we get a little bit of banter going,” he added.
Cole never imagined he would have an impact on older adults lives in such an important way, but now that he’s doing it, he doesn’t want to do anything else. “I get to bring joy to people through something that I’m passionate about,” said Cole.
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