In the final months of his father’s life at a nursing home, Gerald Wolfe noticed something very noteworthy when visiting the facility. A woman in the activity room held a guitar and was starting to sing “In the Sweet By and By.” At first, Gerald says, “I kind of felt sorry for her because the audience (of nursing home residents) was disengaged. But, by the time she got to the chorus, they were trying to sing along! And it reminded me of how special the old hymns are to our senior adults.”
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“I’ve talked to several people who are in the senior care line of work and they tell me that the part of the brain that houses music and rhyme is the last part of the brain to deteriorate from Alzheimer’s or dementia. So even when people can’t have a conversation with you, they will respond to music or singing,” shares Gerald, who saw his own dad trying to sing. “And that’s the last memory I have of being with him, trying to sing, Amazing Grace.”
Because Gerald had been involved in Gospel Music Hymn Sings at a number of churches, he had access to complete DVDs recorded live at church settings. So to test the waters, he began shipping free-of-charge DVDs to nursing homes, and the response was “just overwhelming,” smiles Gerald. “The cards, the notes, and the emails from these folks who are so often forgotten about.” He reveals that especially during the COVID crisis, where visits from family have been restricted, the music DVDs have been a definite blessing, a lifeline to God.
To date, through Operation Sing Again, the ministry has sent DVDs to nearly 16,000 care facilities around the nation. Gerald points out that only two nursing homes have declined the offer. Worth noting, Gerald tells us, even some nursing homes that offer services primarily to people of the Jewish faith, have been receptive.
We invite you to take part in our complete podcast interview below with Gerald Wolfe
Quick note: At the time of our interview, Gerald was experiencing a health issue that affected his voice quality.
The cost of the DVDs and mailing is sometimes covered by families or donations from churches and those who want to come alongside to bless. The next phase of Operation Sing Again will include DVD shipments to care facilities that include hospice.