Using Music Care Initiatives to Target Isolation and Loneliness in Long-Term Care


  • Chelsea Mackinnon
  • Adriana Fedorowycz
  • Lee Bartel
  • Julia Cara McMaster University
  • Sarah Pearson
  • Bev Foster


music and health, social isolation, culture change, health arts, participatory action research


Long-term care (LTC) is transitioning from a medical approach to utilizing a person-centred care approach. Enhanced quality of care and quality of life have become primary objectives which increasingly require non-pharmacological, individualized, and evidence-informed interventions. Music has diverse applications in health care, including the improvement of social and physical health, and consequently resident quality of life. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted adverse effects of restrictive measures within LTC, leading to decreased quality of life measures. An adapted participatory action research (PAR) framework was used to integrate a purposefully designed ‘music care initiative’ into the daily lives of 45 residents at three LTC sites. Prior to implementation, each LTC community received standardized training. Pre- and post-isolation and loneliness scores were collected, along with specific subscales from the Resident Assessment Instrument (RAI). Aggregate data revealed a significant decrease in responsive behaviours. This pilot study shows preliminary evidence that music care is a viable change agent which addresses social isolation and feelings of loneliness affecting LTC residents. Further, community-based research, like PAR, is effective in engaging on-site stakeholders and creating lasting change.

Author Biographies

Chelsea Mackinnon

Chelsea Mackinnon (MMIE, MA, BHSc) is a sessional instructor at McMaster University in the Faculty of Health Sciences where she engages students in community-based education and teaches coursework in music and health. Chelsea’s research interests include community music, long-term care and intergenerational music-making.

Adriana Fedorowycz

McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.

Lee Bartel

Lee Bartel, PhD, is Professor Emeritus, former Associate Dean of Research, and Founding Director of the Music and Health Research Collaboratory (MaHRC) at the Faculty of Music, University of Toronto. He is a member of the Collaborative Program in Neuroscience and cross-appointed to the Rehabilitation Sciences Institute. His primary research interest is Pulsed Stimulation Therapy with applications in pain, depression, Alzheimer’s, and spinal and skeletal conditions.

Julia Cara, McMaster University

Julia is in her third year of a Bachelor of Health Sciences program at McMaster University.

Sarah Pearson

Sarah is a registered psychotherapist, music therapist, and doctoral candidate in Wilfrid Laurier’s Faculty of Social Work. Her research has focused on gender-based violence in performing arts settings, as well as the role of music in health care.

Bev Foster

Bev Foster, MA, BEd, BMus, ARCT, AMus, is the Founder and Executive Director of the Room 217 Foundation, a health arts organization improving the culture of care with music. She is an experienced musician who speaks and writes extensively on the power of music, especially in life limiting situations.





Research Papers