Ah, baseball. That classic All-American sport. Most of the seniors I work with have had some sort of experience with baseball, either playing the game as a kid, watching their children and grandchildren play, or following the professional teams. That means this time of year is great for using this simple activity in groups of seniors or intergenerational groups.
1. Start by singing “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” This song, which turned 100 years old in 2008, should be familiar to most seniors. Its one of those songs that clients of mine with pretty progressed dementia can still sing word-for-word. Its a great song for warming up the group and getting the conversation started.
2. Play a game of catch with recorded music.
Select some music: The music sets an energy level and provides a time frame for the activity. Depending on the size of the group, I’ll set up a playlist on my iPod for the length of time I want to continue the activity. One of my favorite songs to use as background music is “Flying Home” – it has an upbeat tempo and Big Band sound, and it has the added benefit of providing a discussion point about home plate and hitting a home run.
Select an object to catch: The game of catch can be adapted according to your group’s level of physical mobility, strength, and alertness. Perhaps the most gentle version is to play catch with a balloon. I often use these bean bags– they’re easier to catch and throw with one hand like a baseball, but they don’t hurt when someone misses the catch. For a higher-functioning group, you can use egg shakers, bells, or other small instruments for an added sound effect.
Play ball! As the group leader, you can toss the objects back and forth to group members, and you can invite other staff members to help. (They tend to love this game!) You can also encourage group members to toss the objects to each other – make sure they get the other person’s attention first!
3. Ask for comments on the experience. This is the opportunity to get some real conversation going about baseball. (How did we do? Bob has a pretty good arm! Did you play baseball as a kid? Etc.)
4. Finish by singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” again. It’s amazing how many more people will sing louder and more enthusiastically this time around!
Of course, you shouldn’t stop here! In my music therapy sessions, this activity would fit within the framework of a longer music therapy session tailored to meet the needs of the group and the goals for that day, but this particular activity could be part of your group exercise time, the prelude to a springtime party, or the introduction to a viewing of a televised game. Once you have your group members attention and energy focused on the baseball theme, many activities could follow successfully.