When you enter a Generations class, you’ll most likely feel an immediate sense of joy emanating from all the participants. You’ll sense this joy in the elder residents, or “Grandfriends;” the babies, toddlers, and preschoolers; the moms and dads; and the facility staff in attendance. The smiles are big and the hugs are warm, as everyone creates a circle of musicality that is unique and unifying. Within this safe and loving environment, special friendships often blossom, such as the bond that has developed between Grandfriend Dan and three-year-old Brody.
Brody and his mom, Sara Reese, attend a Generations class at Coventry Meadows Assisted Living in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The class is offered by Happy Keys, a Music Together center operated by Ali Dencklau. Brody and Sara began attending the class just over a year ago and have always enjoyed singing and dancing with the Grandfriends. A few months ago, Dan joined the class, and the duo’s connection was instantaneous.
“It is kind of surreal, how Brody just felt drawn to Dan,” explains Sara. “When he met him, he immediately said ‘This isn’t Dan; this is Grandpa!’ Brody will sit beside him or in his lap, and he’ll bring him instruments. In the last class, Brody sat in the chair next to Dan, and they sang the ‘Hello Song’ together. One day, when Brody was feeling like he didn’t want to go to class, I reminded him that ‘Grandpa Dan’ would be there—and that got him right out the door! Dan is his home base.”
Sara isn’t the only person who has noticed this bosom buddy friendship. Happy Keys director and teacher Ali has also witnessed it, and she is touched by the way Dan and Brody interact in class. When Ali first saw the two of them together, she was amazed to discover that they had only just met; she had assumed from their camaraderie that they knew each other outside of class! “Dan told me that it was Brody’s idea to call him Grandpa,” says Ali. “Recently, when Brody came to class, Dan just lit up as he put his arms out, and Brody rushed over to him. Teaching this class and seeing them together is the highlight of my week.”
In Music Together Generations classes, residents of senior communities participate in a meaningful musical activity that can improve quality of life, as well as foster connections between people of all ages. Those connections are especially important for elders who do not have family living nearby, or who have lost their loved ones—as is the case with Dan, who recently lost his wife. According to Coventry Meadows employee Deanna Jackson, Dan’s friendship with Brody couldn’t have come at a better time. “Dan started attending the class after his wife passed away, and for whatever reason, Brody was drawn to him like a magnet,” explains Deanna. “It was almost like Brody knew it was something that Dan needed.”
For Sara, being a part of the Generations class and watching her son bond with Dan brings her great joy, from both a personal and a musical education perspective. “The class is nothing like I’ve ever experienced, as far as exposing my child to music—which is essential—but providing him with this experience in an environment that fosters a relationship with someone like Dan is remarkable,” she says. “In today’s world, we lose touch with people, and music brings everybody together. No matter who you are or how old you are, it doesn’t matter. It is getting the best of all worlds when we go there.”