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Music therapist creates 'heartbeat recordings' to spread joy among seniors: 'I was very touched'

He combines the heartbeat of a loved one with the favorite songs of seniors. Using a small stethoscope-like device, he records a voice memo of the person's voice.

Music therapist creates 'heartbeat recordings' to spread joy among seniors: 'I was very touched'
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Wesley Enhanced Living

A man is using music in a unique way to help seniors to spark good memories. A musician from South Jersey who graduated from Temple University and is now a music therapist, Jacob Dorfman, has come up with a project named the "Heartbeat Songs" to spread cheer among the elderly people. Dorfman, who is also Wesley Enhanced Living Stapeley's community arts coordinator and music therapist, created the project by incorporating the heartbeat of a loved one with some favorite and memorable songs.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Andrea Piacquadio

"I have a small device. It looks like a stethoscope. And I'll record a voice memo of the person's heartbeat," Dorfman told WPVI. "Do a little interview with the residents and I'll say, okay, what kind of songs are a part of your history?" Inspired by his girlfriend, also a musician, he combines songs together in a playlist, each separated by the sound of the recipient's beating heart. This way, the music becomes way more personal. Dorfman sometimes plays and records music live from his guitar while singing along with the seniors.


One of the couples he created a playlist for was Dick Taylor and his wife, Phyllis, who have a long history of civil rights activism even before their marriage 60 years ago. Dick was a staff member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and even joined organizing movements in Philadelphia as part of Martin Luther King Jr.'s team. "I was very touched that he wanted to do something like this," he said, getting emotional. "It brings back just a raft of memories because we've sung these songs before we were married and ever since."


Some of these songs included "We Shall Overcome" by Pete Seeger, the anthem of the Civil Rights Movement, as well as "All the Things You Are" by Ella Fitzgerald. "We never were quiet. We were committed to non-violence, social change," recalled Phyllis. "We are inspired by the people who have gone before us. Hopefully, our legacy lives on in the lives of people who will follow us."


Dorfman hopes that music can help those legacies continue. "Without people like Phyllis and Dick who fought for equal rights and things like that, we wouldn't be living in the country we are today," said Dorfman. "And I hope to just keep bringing the folks here, their stories to light because even though they are older, they still have a lot more to give."

According to Wesley Enhanced Living's Facebook page, "The project's goal is to produce a very special musical time capsule for each resident. As Stapeley's Director of Therapeutic Recreation Amy Van Brug said, 'Music therapy plays an important role in our community, as we work hard to keep residents active and engaged in the things that matter to them and their loved ones.'"


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