Kimberly Sena Moore Ph.D.

Your Musical Self

Intergenerational Music, Aging, and You: A Q&A with Dr. Melita Belgrave

Why—making can help with well and graceful aging

Posted Jul 17, 2012

I am so excited to introduce you to Dr. Melita Belgrave! Dr. Belgrave is a music therapist, an author, a professor, a researcher, and an all—around bubbly and inspiring person to be around. She is an expert in intergenerational programming (read more about it below) and on music and wellness, especially as it relates to aging. I am fortunate enough to consider Dr. Belgrave a mentor and am very excited that she is sharing her expertise with you! So without further ado...

Question: How do you define “wellness?”

Dr. Melita Belgrave: For me as a music therapist, I don’t think that I can define wellness for the clients that I interact with. I believe that wellness is a subjective concept, defined by the individual. Areas of cognitive, physical, and social/emotional domains all contribute to an individual’s concept of wellness. However, every individual places a different level of importance on these things. When creating music therapy applications and programs for older adults in wellness settings, I focus on meeting each person where they are to assist them in maintaining their functioning level and preventing decline in various domains; which I believe leads to enhancing their subjective well-being.

Q: What do you feel is the connection between music and wellness?

MB: For most people, there is a positive connection and/or memory associated with music, whether it is a specific song or a style of music. This connection can occur when a person is passively or actively participating in music. For most people simply hearing a song that brings back good memories can enhance or elevate their current mood. For those who actively participate—such as playing or learning an instrument or song—the feelings of success associated with the learning process can increase their subjective well—being and feelings of usefulness.

Q: Part of your research interests are in the area of intergenerational programming. What is that and how does it work?

MB: Intergenerational programming is defined as engaging two different generations in a structured activity. Most intergenerational programs have specific outcomes that are geared towards the younger and the older generation. Common goals are to enhance cross—age interactions and cross—age attitudes. Additional goals may be identified based on the age and functioning level of the generations. For instance, older adults in a wellness setting may have a goal of improved psychosocial well—being. However, the goals for older adults who have Alzheimer’s disease may relate to increased engagement behaviors or cross—age interactions during intergenerational programs. Similarly, elementary—aged children may have a goal of increasing their attitudes towards older adults, whereas college—age younger generations may have a goal of increased willingness to work with geriatric populations.

The types of clinical applications utilized in intergenerational programs often depend on the age and functioning level of each generation and the model of intergenerational program. There are four models of intergenerational programming:

  1. younger and older generations engaged in recreational activities;
  2. younger and older generations engaged in combined learning programs;
  3. older generations serving younger generations; and
  4. younger generations serving older generations.

Q: What is your #1 suggestion for getting people to use music for wellness?

MB: It is never too late to try something new in music! Learning a new musical skill or returning to music is a great way to enhance a person’s quality of life. Active and passive participation in music can be rewarding.

About Melita Belgrave

Dr. Melita Belgrave is currently Assistant Professor of Music Therapy at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has worked as a music therapist in special education, mental health, rehabilitation, hospice, geriatric, and intergenerational settings throughout Texas and Florida. Her research interests are music therapy with older adults and intergenerational programming.  She is co-author of Music Therapy and Geriatric Populations: A Handbook for Practicing Music Therapists and Healthcare Professionals.

Follow me on Twitter @KimberlySMoore for daily updates on the latest research and articles related to music, music therapy, and music and the brain. I invite you also to check out my website,, for additional information, resources, and strategies.

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