THE BLOG
07/30/2014 11:35 am ET | Updated Sep 29, 2014

Songs in Our Hearts

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Music transcends all barriers, languages, cultures and ages. It's one of the highest forms of expression and helps us to connect with one another, establish lasting memories and remind us of times shared with those we love most. Whether we learn to play an instrument to express ourselves, as a form of spiritual relaxation or as a hobby, music adds value to our lives and fulfills us.

Playing an instrument reminds us to focus on the present and to take a step back to reflect on what's most important in our lives. It provides us with a sense of peace, timelessness and accomplishment. The older generations have a profound appreciation for the beauty of music and often use it as a way to build deeper relationships with themselves and to connect with others.

Six years ago, I started Wish of a Lifetime (WOL), a nonprofit with the mission of fostering respect and appreciation for seniors by granting life-enriching wishes. Through our partnership with Brookdale, our founding corporate sponsor and a leading provider of senior living solutions, we have extended our mission of enriching the lives of seniors by granting wishes across the country. WOL granted our 900th wish earlier this month! Countless seniors who have wished to play musical instruments, attend concerts and sing with choirs all say music is their love and passion.

We recently granted the wish of Dorothy Hodges, an 86-year-old who always dreamed of learning to play piano. Growing up as the eighth of ten children during the Great Depression, she was the only one of her siblings to finish high school. Dorothy has always said music makes her feel "young again." WOL and Brookdale provided her with two months of piano lessons with a trained music instructor, where she learned the basics of the piano as well as songs from her childhood. Learning to play piano has helped Dorothy develop her lifelong passion and further explore her creativity through music.

We're proud to also have granted the wish of 70-year-old LynneAnne Forest who dreamed of taking singing and breath lessons. She said the breathing lessons would give her more confidence and authority and the speaking lessons would give her joy.

When asked what it would mean to her if this wish were granted she said, "The only word I can think of is 'joy.' When I'm happy, I say 'I have a song in my heart' and I think if this were to happen I think that is what I would feel."

In addition to her appreciation of music and the joy she feels when singing, she said it lifts her spirits and makes her feel healthier.

"Music is so enjoyable to me, and singing is very spiritual," said LynneAnne. "I think it also makes me healthy and has improved my confidence!"

Several seniors have also wished to attend musicals or concerts, including Broadway, Boston Pops, New Orleans Jazz and a Josh Groban concert.

We granted the wish of 84-year-old Bill Cannon, who wished to immerse himself in the music and sound in the city of Jazz--New Orleans. When Bill was a teenager, he taught himself to play the clarinet and the saxophone. He created a band with several friends, and they played sets during the intermissions at Minton's Playhouse in Harlem, NY. After serving in the Marines, Bill worked for the Conservatory of Music in Brooklyn, NY. We sent Bill to New Orleans during the Satchmo Festival, which is dedicated to his favorite artist, Louis Armstrong. He listened to lectures on Armstrong, toured Preservation Hall and saw three Jazz artists perform. At the end of the trip, Bill said this had been the best experience of his life.

Dorothy, LynneAnne and Bill's wishes, among the countless other seniors with musical wishes, illustrate the importance of music in enhancing quality of life, health and happiness. Music helps define the moments of our lives. It makes us laugh, fills us with joy and reminds us of the beauty of life. It can reach us in a way that nothing else can.

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