Making Meaning through Music: How Older Adults’ Lifelong Experience with Music Creates Connections, Purpose, and Legacy

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2024-04-29

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Abstract

This project seeks to begin answering the question of how older adults perceive the way music has shaped their lives, experiences, and memories. Using an ethnographic approach, I interviewed nine current or previous residents of Croasdaile Village, a continuous care retirement community in Durham, North Carolina. Interviews were centered around themes of music across the lifespan, asking about origins of musicianship and music taste, experiences with music, and how these themes change during a lifetime. While initially, I wanted to gather first-person perspectives of how older adults view music's presence in their lives, being connected with many lifelong musicians quickly provided evidence that music is so much more than a soundtrack playing in the background. For my participants, music was, is, and will continue to be essential to who they are, the relationships they have, and the means by which they live their lives. The stories gathered in my interviews demonstrate the way interviewees organized their life narratives around music. This suggests that others might also do this. Through this means of storytelling, it became evident that for these folks, music provides purpose and dimension in life. Based on their narratives, it is clear my interlocutors believe that music is a lifelong experience that facilitates relationship building and meaning making in a way no other pursuit could. This interview project exposes and lifts up the importance of music as a mode of communication, connection and comfort across the lifespan.

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Pawlak, Anika (2024). Making Meaning through Music: How Older Adults’ Lifelong Experience with Music Creates Connections, Purpose, and Legacy. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/30628.


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.