Music Bingo evolving from bars to seniors’ homes

For 18 years, Sean Gorman has been trying to breathe more life and draw more sales into the pubs, bars and lounges of the Lower Island with strategically chosen snippets of music.

But now the man behind Music Bingo in the region has turned his music to working with seniors.

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Gorman, who has the Music Bingo franchise for the region, has been working with a retirement home to develop a customized version of the three-hour bingo game that is played in bars around the region every week.

With a focus on music that will twig the memories of those aged 75 to 95, Gorman is hoping to develop a programming package that can be used at any seniors complex.

For the 52-year-old Gorman, who employs 10 people and runs as many as 25 Music Bingo nights in local bars every week, it’s been an energizing experience, and has lit a new fire under the businessman. “You know that feeling when you’ve been doing something for so long — it gets a bit boring. But this has been [great],” he said. “That feeling you get when you can help with people’s lives, it’s very uplifting.”

The project is in a research phase, Gorman said. He has provided the necessary training and materials and a library of about 900 songs to Selkirk Seniors Village, which will be experimenting with the kind of music that works.

The project is about six months old, and Gorman said early indications are it’s been going well.

“They remember the music, they remember the game [bingo], it’s amazing how people react to it,” he said. “And if that can make their lives a little better, that’s incredible.”

Gorman said unlike the bar version of the game that focuses on music from the 1950s through to the present, they dug a little deeper to include swing and big band music in the catalogue for the seniors centre.

“Some of the residents will remember the 1950s and ’60s, but when we put this together we had to do some research and find things they would remember,” he said. The program is about more than just music, it’s about bringing people together socially.

“They work together, they help each other out [identifying music titles],” he said.

Brian Del Raye, recreation manager at Selkirk Seniors Village, said this type of bingo has been an excellent addition to the activity mix.

“Music-based programs can be very beneficial to our residents, especially residents with dementia,” he said. “Music bingo has the benefits of covering multiple areas of the wellness model not just the social aspects of getting together with friends.

“Cognitive abilities are utilized as memory and recall is needed to play the game, and for some the emotional aspects of the wellness model come into play as well as memories that are associated with songs, which often can bring back fond reminiscing.”

Del Raye said the programming has added a bit of normalcy for residents as it’s a little like heading out with friends to the pub. “As more and more baby boomers reach the point of requiring assistance in care, you will see more non-traditional programs such as Music Bingo making their way into seniors communities,” he said.

According to information from the Mayo Clinic, there is plenty of research to suggest music can provide emotional and behavioural benefit to people with dementia, and because “key brain areas linked to musical memory are relatively undamaged by the disease” it can be beneficial to people suffering the effects of Alzheimer’s disease.

Gorman said when they have honed the program they hope to expand to other seniors centres, but he stressed it will not be about increasing his company’s bottom line. “For me I’m really not thinking dollars,” he said, noting these kinds of residence have limited budgets for entertainment. “The reaction I’m looking for is to see people’s eyes light up. For me at this point I want to see the positive nature of things rather than the financial nature of it.”

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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