Funded by a grant from the JA Community Fund, Grateful Crane’s founders Scott Nagatani and Keiko Kawashima have been performing “Memories” concerts throughout this year for Japanese American seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia in Nikkei nursing homes in Los Angeles County.
Since this is the first time we have performed concerts for this specific population, we did not know going in exactly how seniors with these memory issues would respond to our songs and music. Having performed for Nikkei seniors for over 17 years, we do know the benefits and immense joy that music can bring. However, with this new audience, there was no way of knowing exactly how they would react: Would they stare at us with a blank expression? Sing along? Act out or exhibit behavioral problems? Fall asleep?
We found our answers to these questions as Scott and Keiko performed 30 minute concerts for audiences as large as 100 and as small as one person, lying in her bed at a nursing home. Residents who normally do not participate in organized in-house social activities and stay alone in their rooms all day were brought in to day rooms in small groups of seven to nine people. Keiko and Scott also set up in individual resident's rooms and performed private concerts for one person and their roommate. We’ve also performed in Memory Care wards and Special Care units within nursing homes, where residents with memory issues live. Whether it was a large concert or small, the results were the same: Nostalgic songs and music, including traditional Japanese songs from their childhoods, had a remarkable and joyful effect on the vast majority of residents we performed for. As Scott played and Keiko sang, residents responded by singing along, clapping to the music and smiling. And they remembered every word. After seeing this reaction among her memory-care residents, Desiree Kitagawa, Deputy Director of Nikkei Senior Gardens in Arleta, said “I hope this program can continue. It’s Heaven sent.”