The healing power of music

Originally published in The Taos News

Article-relevant picture.

Photo: Tina Larkin

Taos Retirement Village General Manager Jeff Gray, left, laughs out loud Tuesday (April 11) when trying to find a song both residents Chilton Anderson, center, and Marge Kantor could enjoy while showing them how to use the new device that will soon be installed in their individual rooms.

A gray-haired lady stares at an indefinite point in space. She has a blank expression and doesn’t seem to recognize anybody or care about anything in the world. But when an old song starts playing, her eyes brighten. She smiles and starts humming along, suddenly coming back to life.

This remarkable transformation is brought about by… music. It is part of a program designed to improve the quality of life of residents in long-term care facilities by assembling relevant content (like favorite songs or old radio shows, among many other possibilities) and by providing it in an easily accessible manner.

“Individualized content such as therapeutic music, spirituality, educational pieces, current events and audio books are delivered directly to the resident’s room upon request or according to a pre-existing schedule,” said Jeff Gray, co-founder of CoroHealth, the company that created and developed this program. Gray is also the Executive Director ofTaosRetirementVillage, where the program is currently been implemented.

The therapeutic effect of music has been documented by a clinical study conducted in several nursing homes that use CoroHealth. It has shown a dramatic reduction of the medication required for certain residents, with a 27 % to 50 % decrease.

And nowTaosseniors can start benefiting from this program as well.TaosRetirementVillagewas purchased on July 2010 by Colinas HealthCare, Inc., a company that uses CoroHealth and that used it in six of its nursing facilities.

“The idea for CoroHealth originated from my daughter Reese,” said Gray. “When she was born she was very ill and admitted to the neonatal ICU.  Do to her conditions, we started to use different kinds of music to help with pain management, sleeping, relaxation and eating, and it helped her in unimaginable ways.”

After Reese passing, Gray realized that individualized appropriate music had the ability to affect people of all ages emotionally, physically, psychologically, and behaviorally. “It can reduce blood pressure, respiration rate, heart rate, oxygen saturation levels, reduce pain and provide comfort,” he said. “I co-founded CoroHealth to create a product that would fill that gap.”

How does the program work?

The system is designed for multi-user installations. “Its flexibility allows for both in-room delivery as well as playing in common areas such as day rooms, dining rooms, and outdoor spaces,” said Gray,

First, a team of nurses, therapists and content experts work with the patients and their families to identify their preferences. Would they rather listen to classical music, old radio shows, audio book readings, educational lectures, sermons or a combination of all that?

Later, each resident receives a Music Prescription™ based on their medical condition, acuity level, personal preferences and interests. In designing the music prescription, special attention is given to the arrangement, tempo, genre, key, volume and desired outcome.

Content can play according to a pre-determined schedule or on-demand by the resident. It can include reminders and custom messages as well as original artist recordings, brain games and short stories.

There are also relaxation music prescriptions that can be played before a scheduled bandage change, and energy prescriptions that can be used before physical therapy.

“The profound sensory and intellectual stimulation of music can help preserve and improve a person’s quality of life,” said Gray. “That’s the idea behind CoroHealth.”

Not only the use of this program reduces medication intake, but it helps also with pain management. “It has been proved that therapeutic music and spirituality reduce pain perception,” he said.

Coro Health provides customizable audio hardware for the patients including speakers, pillow speakers, headphones and adjustable volume control. The programs can be automatically scheduled to turn on and off at convenient times throughout the day.

“Music is our universal language, and we are all born with a sense of rhythm and an internal metronome…our heart!” said Gray.

CoroHealth was recognized as Program to Watch by the Assisted Living Federation of America (ALFA) 2011 Best of the Best Awards program. This award recognizes products, services or programs that make significant contributions to senior living.
TaosRetirementVillage, located one block from the plaza in downtownTaos has 63 apartments and casitas, 2 homes, and aMedicalCenter with 20 licensed skilled nursing beds. It is currently being renovated.

“And it is going to get better,” said Gray. “We have made many improvements in the last year but there is more on the way.” He plans to enhance the landscaping, fencing, add entry gates, theater and lounge, and a complete renovation of the existing apartments.

To learn more about CoroHealth, visit its website

To find out more aboutTaosRetirementVillagego to

or call

(575) 758.8248

Article-relevant picture.

General manager Jeff Gray, left, and activities director Christine Stathis say they are excited about the new music therapy program offered at Taos Retirement Village.

Photo: Tina Larkin