Musicians get creative to give music therapy to Staten Island seniors

Posted at 6:55 PM, Apr 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-10 18:55:40-04

DONGAN HILLS, Staten Island — It was a Good Friday for many of the 300 seniors socially isolated and confined to their rooms at Carmel Richmond Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center in Dongan Hills.

At this Archcare facility, these patients, ranging in age from 65 to 102, have not been able to join in any social activities since mid March because of the COVID-19 crisis.

Until this day, that is, when their much-loved music therapists Robert Santa and Chris Refano brought their joy of music to them from an outside patio in a proper, socially distant way.

“We have a common room where we would have parties once a week with entertainment, Vera Cicero, Carmel Richmond recreation director, told PIX11 News. “But we haven’t been able to do that either. So we thought if we stood outside and brought the party to them, we could bring them a little bit of happiness."

For Robert Santa, who’s been performing here ever since his own father was a patient here, it’s all about sharing his love of music.

“Music is joy, you see it all over social media,” he said. “People singing out of their homes. It really softened my heart."

Chris Refano, another music therapist, added: “it’s joy, an escape for a short time. We see them dancing and singing and having a good time. We see them waking up. It definitely brings them out of their shells."

Many of the patients are sitting in chairs near the slightly opened windows, listening to the joyous music. Others are bedridden, with nursing home workers happily waving their arms nearby from the windows.

This concert was also a welcome break for staff to kick up their heals on the patio, including Carmelite Sisters, and dance a little.

And these music therapists are hoping to bring their joy of music back to patients in this way in the coming weeks.