Youth and Elders transformed and connected – Music makes Memories!

Isaac, student intern:”Music is an important part of my life,. When I am feeling down, music inspires me and takes me to another place. Giving music to elders is such a small gift of kindness with a powerful impact. Every elder deserves music in their lives!”

Isaac is a sophomore in high school.  He is interested in music and science and is fascinated by the power of music and how it improves his own sense of well-being as he plays guitar or listens to his tunes.    Isaac and I and another student, Bella partnered as student interns for high school credit on a Compass Senior Living project. This was inspired by the documentary Alive Insidewhich features  Olver Sacks, a neuroscientist, studying the impact of music on the limbic brain.

The Administrator and Life Enrichment Coordinator at Sundial Assisted Living in Redding California invited us to partner with them.  They recruited Eli a young volunteer who plays guitar to work with us so that the program could continue after Isaac and Bella left.

Isaac and Bella interviewed elders and worked all evening creating the play lists and downloading them onto mp3 players.  The next day they brought the headphones and the tunes. The smiles and evoked memories continued for days.

Isaac and Billie

Amy, the Business Services Director at Sundial Assisted Living said, “Billie came into my office this morning to tell me about how amazed she is at our brains. She started thinking about all the songs she has stored in her brain and the marvel is that they are all there after all these years. She also shared how much she enjoyed interacting with Isaac. Talking about music made her start thinking about other things… like who the members of the Rat Pack were. She even got into a conversation with another resident this morning about it and he helped her remember the one she was missing. I love it that she is walking around excitedly celebrating the wonder of music and memory and that the interactions of the last couple of days have stirred in her a desire to talk and think more about how music has played a significant role in her life.”

Another Compass Senior Living community in Las Cruces New Mexico, Desert Peaks Assisted Living & Memory Care has begun the process of implementing the Music Makes Memories Program.  Life Enrichment Coordinator, Adriana Garcia prepared this 3-minute video of what they are discovering!  WATCH THIS VIDEO!

The secret key to evoking memory actually emerges in the discussions with the elders AFTER listening to their playlist.

Adriana Garcia, Life Enrichment Coordinator

“Watching the transformations in the elders was breathtaking. Having watched ‘Alive Inside,’ I was already moved by what I had seen; but having it unfold before my eyes, with residents that I spend every day with, sent shock waves of emotion through me. It’s almost as though, just briefly, they were back to their old selves again. They knew who they were, where they had been, who they have known, and it was beautiful. The son of one of our residents who saw the video we made was taken aback. He couldn’t believe that she could remember something that had taken place when he was only 2 years old. His reaction was powerful, and it was incredibly special to be able to share these moments with him. I’m so grateful for this program and very excited to continue on this journey. The next obvious step is involving the families of the residents more and giving them this gift to use at any given time. I would encourage anyone to try this with their loved ones who may be suffering from memory loss. You can’t really appreciate the impact has until you are right there with them.”  Adriana Garcia, Life Enrichment Director

To learn more about the Music Makes Memories program, contact Jean Garboden

About the Author: Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for-profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living. Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.


FIVE really cool gifts to buy for Grandma and Grandpa!

Black Friday  is at the end of this week after Thanksgiving.  What to get for grandma and grandpa?    The lists of things to buy are usually lotions, and socks, and slippers, and grocery gift cards – all which are good!   But I was thinking…. what do elders really want?

My grandchildren say I am ‘really cool’ because I stay connected with them on Facebook, Instagram, texting, phone, and Snapchat.   I don’t know about cool, but I am grateful that in my elder years I can continue to be part of the greater community and my family even when the day comes that I cannot travel as I can now. So I asked the elders I come in contact with around the United States What do you want?   And their answers were the same as mine!

  • To spend quality time with friends and family.
  • To have a purposeful life.
  • To maintain independence in choice.
  • To  continue learning and growing.
  • To have joy and spontaneity.
  • To have peace of mind.

The greatest gift you can give is a way for your loved one to stay connected.   You might be surprised how savvy elders can be with a quick tutorial on tablets and iPads and smart phones.

There are some things that are important to consider, if you are thinking about technology gifts.

  • Wi-fi must be set up in the senior’s home.  If living in a senior housing community, most have free wi-fi.
  • It is important to have someone to to tutor and  build a relationship during the learning process to navigate the device.  Grandchildren, friends, or if in a Senior housing community, the Millennial care-team members and their volunteer teams are great resources.


  1. TABLETS AND IPADS: These all-in-one devices are in many ways perfect for seniors with their touch-screen technology and large print options.   The touch screen allows the elder to access apps easily with a tap of the finger.
  • Facebook–  In our senior housing communities, I have seen the joy on the faces of elders who are connecting with Facebook website on computer screengrandchildren and long lost friends.  One of our Millennial care team members showed an 87 year old elder how to do a video chat on Facebook with her son.  It made her day!   The next morning, when I came into the community, she told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”  Friends she had not connected with in 40 years had found her and connected!
  • Learning and researching–  I talked with a 92 year old man  sitting in the living room with earphones and the tablet watching youtube videos about how to care for plants, as he advised us on the landscaping.  He told me, “This has opened a world of new information to me!”
  • Google earth– Want to ‘walk down the street’ of your childhood home, or visit places in the world?  Some of our teams have hooked a laptop or a tablet to a computer and taken a tour of the world. One woman, who was born in France was able to virtually visit her home town!
  • Cost: Tablets cost between $129$300 depending on the brand.

2.  SMART PHONE: Phones are not only important for keeping the social connection, and necessary for quality of life — but also give elders peace of mind. Many smartphones  offer large buttons, speed dial, visual rings and more.

  •  Samsung Jitterbug is available on for $60.
  •  If your family has a a ‘family plan’ with your provider, you can add grandma or grandpa for $20 – $40  a month, and purchase the phone on an installment plan.
  • Several residents and care team members were chatting with Mrs. Jackson who had just received  a new iPhone from her family.   Jasmine, a care team member,  talked about ‘Face time’, so  we asked Mrs. Jackson if she had her grandson’s phone number in her phone.  She did, and Jasmine showed her how to make a Facetime call.  When the grandson answered he saw faces of  of his grandma and all of her friends and  care team members  excited about the connection!
  • Add ear phones to the gift, and show grandma or grandpa how to access their favorite music too!

3. DIGITAL PHOTOS:  With most of our photos on social media these days, we don’t often take the time to print photos.

  • Digital photo frames are available from $34 to about $110 (which also supports video), depending on what size and capacity you want.
  • Another nice option is to use Shutterfly, where you can upload your photos from Facebook or other social media, or directly from your phone or computer to create a traditional photo album with captions. The photo book  can be mailed directly to your grandpa and grandma to enjoy.  Depending on the size of the book, the cost can be $25 – and up.

4.  IPOD OR MP3 PLAYER & HEADPHONESStudies have proven that music has a powerful therapeutic benefit for all people, and particularly elders.

  • Purchase head phones for $15+ depending on the quality.
  • Purchase an MP3 player or iPod shuffle.  The cost is between $20-$50.
  • Download a song list of music you know that your grandparent loves.

If you haven’t seen the documentary ‘Alive Inside’, it is available on Netflix, and we have seen the power of music to alleviate depression, improve memory, and enhance life!

5.  AMAZON ECHO DOT: Cost  $50.   This is my newest best friend, and I have one in my home office.    In the morning I can say, “Alexa good morning, what is the weather like today?”  She gives a weather forecast.  I can ask what the time is.  I can ask Alexa to play my favorite music.  I can even order through my Amazon Prime account.  “Alexa, add sugar to my cart”.    I can also say, “Alexa, tell me a joke” (they are not very funny!), or “Alexa, what’s in the headlines today?  or  “Alexa set a timer for 10 minutes”.   This week, as I was experimenting with this, I thought this might  be nice for an elder to have in his or her home, especially if visually impaired.  If you have a ‘smart home’, you can also say, “Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room”, or  “Alexa, lock the front door.”

I found a funny video of elders learning to talk with Alexa.

I had to add this  to my “Cool list” today

Technology is here to stay, and the elders I talk with are excited about the possibilities of leading a more vibrant connected life in this new era.  Yes, some say, “I am too old for this.”   But as soon as a connection is made, it is amazing to see how purpose, connection, spontaneity, and joy is evident in their lives!

Another documentary available on Netflix I have been following is ‘Cyber Seniors”  watch the trailer here.   Happy Holiday Shopping!

11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nAbout the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation at Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.

Be the fountain

You can be the fountain, or you can be the drain. This is what the keynote speaker said during the opening keynote of the 2016 Oregon Health Care Association conference. Someone else had said it to her and she used it in her presentation titled Get what you want with what you’ve got. Most of the talk was quips and ideas you’ve maybe heard before or may have in a slightly different fashion. This sentence struck me though. I hadn’t heard it before. It so simply creates an image, a visual, succinctly representing one thing–choice. You have a choice in everything you do–we all do. It doesn’t mean we won’t have bad days or annoyances or times we just want to scream. It just means we have the choice to let them flow through us and be repurposed into something beautiful or let it drag us (and those around us) down.

She went on to relay a story about how her son was attempting to get an autograph from a Harlem Globetrotter after a performance. He kept getting shoved to the back and, after realizing there was a player on the side, he went over to the gentleman that wasn’t as protected by the crowd. When the young boy asked how the player “was doing” the player smartly said, “better because you’re here”. She was struck by the glow on her son’s face. How special he felt because of that comment.

Senior Housing News recently published an article about “relational marketing vs. transactional marketing“. The idea is that instead of treating your marketing and sales efforts like a transaction (i.e. I provide X, you pay Y), senior living needs to treat marketing and sales like a relationship (i.e. we’re working together to get you the care and services you really need). I must admit, this is not a new concept to me. The senior living companies that I’ve been the marketer for have subscribed to this philosophy for years. I recognize, though, that its hard for some to transition out of the “sales” mentality. How do you do it?

I’m reminded of a Maya Angelou quote which I’m sure you’ve all heard: I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

Fountains are possible because of a simple use of one of the most basic elements on Earth–and yet they can produce amazing joy and fun. Feeling special is possible because of a simple word said in the right way and a person with the where-with-all to choose that they are going to be the fountain.

I hope in your day to day, you can find a moment to ask–how can I make this person feel special today? That’s the “holy grail” in filling a community and making those “sales”–by filling it with love and commitment to the people (all people) that make up the community.

How do you make residents, families, and employees feel special? I invite you to comment and share what you’ve experienced.

About the Author: Amira T. Fahoum is the Director of Marketing and Director of Operations, Northwest Region for Compass Senior Living located in Eugene, Oregon. Her path to senior living started when she simply decided to be open to possibilities in life. Possibilities are what led her to eight years of learning the senior living industry in roles ranging from Administrative Assistant to Director of Sales and Marketing. Possibilities also led her into the world of education technology for almost three years. Now, on her journey with Compass, she has found true reward in working with the people that care for others. She lives in Eugene with her husband, Michael, where they enjoy golf, travel and volunteering.

Grandma plays Pokemon Go!


Pokemon GO Encounter at the Lake Shore
JUNE LAKE, CALIFORNIA – JULY 24, 2016: The hit augmented reality smartphone app “Pokemon GO” shows a Pokemon encounter overlain on a lake shore in the real world.

On Tuesday, July 26th, I was visiting my 15 year old grandson, Gabe, in Eugene, Oregon. Gabe and I have always had a great connection. Over the years we connected through Lego building, collecting Pokemon cards, and more recently with Snapchat.  The last time we were together, he and I talked about how much we miss the old days when we played together, as he is now so busy with school and track practice.

When I saw in my newsfeed about the new Pokemon app on Sunday, the 24th, I texted Gabe and asked him if he had downloaded it.   Yes, he had!  When I arrived in Eugene, we decided to go to the University of Oregon campus and have dinner, and try out the new app.  The Olympic trials were going on, so a lot of people were on campus, and it was hilarious to see  people walking around with their phones, hunting Pokemon. Gabe and I walked and laughed and talked and captured Pokemon for 3 hours! It was an awesome connection for us both.

I was born in the 40’s and grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. It is a different world now, and I am grateful for the power of social media to keep me connected to my grandchildren who do not live near me.

The elders who live at home or in Assisted Living communities can benefit from the connections social media can facilitate for them. I have seen it happening in the communities I visit.  We encourage our care team members to help the elders connect with their families, and the outside world.  In the process the care team members make a special connection with the elders and develop deeper relationships.

In one community in Roswell New Mexico, Ms. Virginia  was not able to travel to SMary Beth & Virginia ipadan Antonio to attend the wedding of her granddaughter due to fragile health.  The Executive Director, Mary Beth,  contacted the family and asked if they could stream the wedding through a smart phone or an iPad so that their grandmother could be there.   Ms. Virginia had a front row seat as she watched the wedding on an iPad from her apartment in Roswell, and even got to speak with her family face to face.  Both Mary Beth and Virginia shed tears of joy and gratitude.

In another community, the Life Enrichment Director was introducing social media during a resident council meeting, and  Skyped me in from my home in Las Vegas to talk with them.  At first the residents thought they were watching a movie until I started greeting them by name!

Face time is being used  in one of the Memory Care Communities I visit.  The daughter lives in another state, and every night she calls her father on his iPhone and they talk about his day, and she wishes him sweet dreams, and he tells her he loves her.

I talked to one 87 year old elder who was introduced to Facebook while I was visiting.  The care team called her family to let them know she was on Facebook, and they were able to video chat that evening.  The next morning when I went back into the community the elder told me, “I got 8 likes last night!”   Her family had notified some old friends, and she was connected with people she had not heard from in 40 years.

I saw one 92 year old man with headphones and an iPad.  I asked him what he was watching.  He said, “I am watching youtube videos about gardening.  This has opened a whole new world for me.”   Another woman who grew up in New York was able to do google earth, and virtually walk down the street where she grew up.

It is a basic human need to be connected to one another. It is also crucial to our well-being that we all continue to learn and grow through childhood, through adulthood, and into elderhood.  Let’s create places where the elders are the center of the community, where  we facilitate connections, and grow and learn together.

Watch this short trailer Cyber Seniors  from a documentary created by teenage sisters with a mission to remain connected to their own grandparents, and in the process changed the lives of many.

About the Author:    Jean Garboden is the Director of Education and Innovation 11062337_10206528118188840_645394201235573404_nat Compass Senior Living, located in Eugene Oregon. Jean is an Elder Advocate and Eden Alternative Educator with over 30 years’ experience in not-for-profit and for profit health care organizations. She is honored to lead the mission and values culture development for Compass Senior Living.  Jean lives in Las Vegas, Nevada where she enjoys the weather and volunteers with the Nevadans for the Common Good, advocating for caregivers and elders in southern Nevada.  She spends her leisure time with her husband Art, her dog Max, her cat Molly, and a 50-year-old desert tortoise named Myrtle.