An increasing number of nursing homes are introducing a Swedish therapeutic method that enables elderly people to play music.

Developed by Swedish music therapist Sten Bunne, 64, for elderly people, children and the disabled in 1980, the unique method overcomes physical difficulties and has proved to be an effective therapy even for dementia patients.

The Bunne method uses easy-to-play musical instruments such as a guitar that has a lever that strikes chords when the player moves it right or left by following an instructor’s hand movements. Special flutes are among other instruments of the method, which makes playing music possible for anyone.

A home for the aged operated by Maihama Club Co. in Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture, conducts two concert sessions per week based on the Bunne method. Participants are divided into several groups and play assigned instruments or sing while following a teacher’s instructions. Each session lasts about 40 minutes.

“I can’t wait” for the sessions, said Taeko Arakawa, an 80-year-old resident. “I feel elevated after participation.”

The Bunne method creates a sense of unity among participants as they complete a concert together, said 44-year-old instructor Takanori Shimamura. “All participants play instruments and become confident because they have a sense of accomplishment by playing their roles.”

In addition to two weekly sessions, Maihama Club holds a 20-minute session before meals almost every day for residents heavily in need of nursing care. Many of them have their appetite stimulated as a result and can eat without assistance, said staff members.

Since 2009, some 50 care facilities in Japan have introduced the Bunne method. In Sweden, about 1,500 facilities have already adopted the method.

The Bunne method helps many elderly people stay healthy physically and mentally and avoid increases in the level of required nursing care, according to Gustav Strandell, the president of Maihama Club.

The method is said to improve a person’s brain function, memory and voicing capacity.

In addition, it was found to enhance the breathing capacity of participants, according to a 2010 survey of people in their 50s to 90s who visit care centers for dementia patients in Tokyo.

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