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 an excellent downloadable sing-along hymn collection called Hymns of the Cross, complete with voice accompaniment, for $12. No fancy orchestral arrangements or performance frills, just beautiful piano and vocal music that’s easy to follow.

Have you found a musical resource? Please share!

Peace be with you,


Photo by David Beale

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