Some say music is the elixir of life and Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) volunteers Mickey Bonham and Pat Bradley have been able to see that firsthand through their work at Hyland Crest long-term care home.
The duo run a weekly music program at the Minden site, bringing residents together for group sing-a-longs featuring hits from industry icons such as Elvis Presley, Frankie Avalon, and Bill Haley and the Comets.
“Pat and I really enjoy it, we both choir in Haliburton, so we love bringing the spirit of music to the residents, getting them singing and listening to some of their favourite songs. It’s very therapeutic,” Bonham said, noting she launched the program around 20 years ago.
Back then, she would bring a CD in from her extensive home collection. Now, she’s gone digital – making use of a smart TV and YouTube to take turns playing classics from the residents’ favourite acts.
“You can always see them moving a little bit and singing along. They all know the words, it’s incredible. Music has a funny way of bringing things back – it stays with you even when you’re old and grey,” Bonham said with a chuckle.
The program paused during the pandemic, with Bonham and Bradley taking an enforced two-year hiatus. They both say that was hard, especially knowing they wouldn’t have a chance to say goodbye to some of their friends.
Bonham started volunteering in the early 2000s after a friend moved into Hyland Crest. Bradley did likewise in 2011, after her mom became a resident.
They continued going even after their loved ones passed.
“It’s important to give back, because a lot of these people don’t have people coming to visit them. It’s easy for them to feel abandoned,” Bradley said. “These are people who shaped our community and society for years and years… I love coming here – I come out of every session with a smile on my face, because it’s so much fun.”
Bonham added, “They all have such wonderful stories. Some of them are so funny, and so sweet. You do get really close to them. They become your friends in a lot of cases.”
The pair spend a few hours on-site every Wednesday, with Bonham saying she goes in twice a week during the summer. They also assist with parties, luncheons, and various other activities.
Volunteers have been allowed back for over a year now, but Bradley said numbers are heavily depleted. This is true across many groups affiliated with the hospital, including the Minden Health Care Auxiliary.
“There’s only a handful of us left, which is really sad because the Auxiliary plays an important role in helping fund much-needed equipment that the government doesn’t provide,” Bradley said, noting she’s been a member for 10 years.
“Last year we raised $15,000, and we just gave the hospital another $35,000. It’s an extremely important calling,” she added.
That money was used to purchase four new air beds at Hyland Crest, a new water softener system, and ceiling lifts for the emergency department.
“We desperately need more members if we’re going to continue,” Bradley said.
Anyone interested in volunteering with HHHS can contact Brigitte Gebauer at email@example.com.