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J Music Ther. 1999;36(3):182-195.

The Influence of Background Music on Task Engagement in Frail, Older Persons in Residential Care.

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  • 1Colmery-O'Neil Veterans Affairs Medical Center.


Colmery-O'Neil Veterans Affairs Medical CenterThe purpose of this study was to examine the effects of preferred background music on the engagement of residents of a nursing care facility in therapeutic recreation tasks. Eighteen subjects were assigned to one of two groups and both groups participated in a series of 12 weekly sessions in which the background conditions were randomly ordered. All subjects experienced four sessions each of 10 minutes of (a) silence, (b) preferred background music, and (c) nonpreferred background music. Videotapes were made of all sessions and an observer recorded the number of 30-second time intervals in which each subject was on task. A one-way analysis of variance calculated for frequencies of time intervals for the three conditions revealed no statistically significant differences. It was noted, however, that the therapist tended to prompt more conversations during the preferred music, and when subjects responded they generally dropped their task participation. The investigators concluded that background music may influence the therapists' behaviors which may, in turn, influence responses of their program participants. Further study of the effects of background music on task engagement among care home residents is recommended.

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