An Intergenerational Music Class: Meeting Needs of Older Adults and Children Through Orff Schulwerk

July 1, 1992 / By: Mary E. Gorder

The population of America is growing older. Elderly people are demanding appropriate programs and services. Music education needs to provide opportunities for older adults to enrich and develop their musical talents. An intergenerational music class provides a venue for this development and also the opportunity for elderly people to interact with children in a classroom setting.

The purpose of this study was to create a music class with Orff Schulwerk emphasis to address the needs of both the children and older adults. In addition, the study evaluates the effectiveness of an intergenerational music program to increase the comfort level of the participants, perceived musical gains, and satisfaction with such a program.

Thirteen children, ages nine and ten, and eight senior citizens, who were female, mobile, and independent, participated in the six weeks of lessons. Classes met once a week for an hour at Shirley Hills Primary School and afterwards performed a demonstration at the senior center.

Participants completed two separate surveys on which formed the basis of the following finding.

The participants of this project discovered the class to be enjoyable and worthwhile. The interaction between the two age levels became more comfortable as the class progressed. Perceived musical gains of the individuals was achieved. The Orff media allowed the two groups to create music immediately and at different ability levels. Of the choices of preferred music activities, dancing and instrument playing were chosen by participants.

This study leads this music educator to believe that intergenerational music classes provide rewards for the participants, the instructor, and the community. In this setting, young and old together can create music, build friendships, and strengthen communities.