George Pearson Centre client Al Pallister records his own compositions with a music therapist.

For several years, Vu has lived at George Pearson Centre (GPC), a residential care home for over 100 adults with severe disabilities that require special assistance and extra care.

GPC provides residents like Vu, who only goes by his first name, a range of services from aquatic programs and speech therapy, to physical therapy and dental care, helping them lead a happy and healthy life.

One of those programs is the donor-funded music therapy program, which provides them with group and one-on-one music therapy sessions.

Makes life better

Vu, who is paralyzed chest down from a skiing accident in Whistler, says the program has made life better.

“Yeah, it is fun,” he says. “I get to sing my favourite songs and it is a good feeling. I enjoy doing this every week. And the singing has helped with my talking that is very difficult after my accident.”

Laura Unger, the music therapist who works with Vu, says music is very therapeutic to people with disabilities.

“Music is so healing because it has deep and powerful effects on the mind and body,” she explains.

“Music is healing because it is beautiful,” she continues. “It can transform a moment of pain, loss and distress to a moment of stillness and peace. Music can comfort and soothe. Music can assist people to transcend difficult situations and to create a space to search for meaning and connectedness.”

Vu found that connectedness in singing some of his favourite songs.

“I love to sing the classics like My Way, the 57-year-old says with a laugh. “But I like Broadway songs like Phantom the Opera and Miss Saigon — those are more challenging but fun.”

The Music Heals Charitable Foundation

In 2016, VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation received $10,000 from Music Heals Charitable Foundation to provide additional hours of music therapy.

Laura says they need more money to increase the number of hours for the program. She says that the grants and donations they receive for the program go a long way, providing funding for much-needed additional staffing and increasing the number of music therapy hours significantly. This type of therapy makes an impact on the emotional and physical health of the residents.