Create a hymn playlist for an elder

Without a doubt, music reaches something inside of elders that nothing else does, and it’s miraculous and joyful to witness. I’ve seen time and again how seniors with Alzheimer’s or dementia — even people who might otherwise be nonverbal — start singing the words to classic hymns as soon as the music starts playing.

(To get a taste of what I mean, I urge you to watch this 2-minute trailer for the movie “Alive Inside.” If you live in Boulder County, check out a free screening of the full movie on May 18, sponsored by The Peaks senior community in Lafayette.)

My worship agendas include a lot of hymns; we sing hymns for about half of a one-hour service. As I passed out hymnals last week, one woman asked delightedly, “Are we going to sing all of these songs?” I was happy to tell her “yes.”

Afterwards, the daughter of one resident asked me if there was any way she could get the song list so that she could create a hymn playlist for her mom. I told her that’s exactly why I created this site: so I can easily point people to resources for caring for their loved ones.

Create your own!

If you, too, would like to create a old-time hymn playlist, here are three easy options.

  1. Purchase ElderSong’s Hymn-Sing CDs, which include vocal accompaniments in lower, slower arrangements. ElderSong also offers songbooks with large-print lyrics. These are what I use for the Spiritual ElderCare services. Volumes 1 and 2 without lyric books each cost $14, or you can buy both volumes with both lyrics books for $28.
  2. HymnPod offers dozens of free, downloadable hymns and lyrics (listed alphabetically). These are lovely, simple piano arrangements but do not have voice accompaniments.
  3. Worship Service Resources offers a downloadable sing-along hymn collection called Hymns of the Cross, complete with voice accompaniment, for $12. Some may be a little fast or long for elders, but there are no fancy orchestral arrangements or performance frills, just beautiful piano and vocal music.

Have you found a musical resource? Please share!

Peace be with you,


Photo by David Beale

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