UW-Eau Claire music therapy students helping seniors with mobility

Published: Aug. 22, 2023 at 6:43 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - Residents at a skilled nursing and rehabilitation center facility in Eau Claire are getting help with moving around again thanks to some students at UW-Eau Claire.

The music therapy students, led by Professor Lee Anna Rasar, are helping seniors at Dove Healthcare South in Eau Claire move through the music technique of patterned sensory enhancement.

With some coaching from the students, the technique teaches the seniors to learn movement with cues they get from each note Professor Rasar plays on the piano.

“The music kind of tells them what they need to do. And once they’ve learned it to the music, if they hear the music in the future is automatic response that they give because it’s paired with it,” said Rasar.

The seniors are limited in mobility due to age and health conditions.

“We don’t really get much opportunity to exercise at our age, so this gets us to move,” said Harry Winters, he suffered a stroke that left him with limited mobility on one side of his body.

“I’ve seen my dad be able to move more, especially his left arm. But he doesn’t move quite as well because of his stroke,” said Sarah Johnson, Winters’ daughter who is happy to see the benefits of the music therapy for her father.

Dorothy Anderson, who is 108-years-old, said the music therapy has her feeling great about her mobility.

“I think it helps keep us limber. And I like to see the girls and the other inmates!” said Anderson jokingly.

Dove Healthcare South activity director Mandy Alvar said therapy has always been offered at the facility, but said the short time the residents have spent with the students has done wonders for their mobility.

“I wish it could continue on. I wish it wasn’t just a four week program, but it’s it’s been just absolutely worthwhile to have it even in that short time frame,” said Alvar. “Because it’s not only accomplishing what we’re already trying to do, but was enhancing that at the same time.”

Professor Rasar hopes to bring the program back in 2024.