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Songwriting Works

Songwriting Works (SW) gives elders and families access to the physical, cognitive, psycho-social and spiritual benefits of songwriting. Family caregivers join loved ones as trained professional songwriters engage participants in elder-driven evidence-based songwriting workshops held at skilled nursing, assisted living, adult day and community centers. Songwriting Works is a 2010 recipient of The Rosalinde Gilbert Innovations in Alzheimer’s Disease Caregiving Legacy Award in the Creative Expression category.


Songwriting Works Educational Foundation

Songwriting Works Educational Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization based in Port Townsend, WA, operates internationally providing workshops, trainings, tools, and respite activities engaging 500-800 elders, families, caregivers and music / arts professionals annually. Founder and director Judith-Kate Friedman developed the SW method as California Arts Council (Artworks/Institute on Aging/Mt.Zion/UCSF) and Marin Arts Council artist-in-residence (1990-99). In 1997 SW re-organized as a fiscally-sponsored non-profit and began serving elders across the care continuum at San Francisco’s Jewish Home (1997-present). Honors include the MetLife / American Society on Aging MindAlert (2007) and Sadler / Society for Arts in Healthcare International Healing Arts (2008) awards and Theresa Allison, M.D., M.Music’s research (Oxford Handbook of Medical Ethnomusicology, Oxford University Press, 2008). In 2009 SW received independent 501(c)3 status and an NEA Creativity and Aging in America grant to begin facilitator certification training for professional songwriters.


Port Townsend, WA

How does it work?

Songwriting Works may be implemented at different settings. Songwriting Works at the Jewish Home San Francisco (SWaJH, 1997- present) takes place as six three-day programs annually. The facility accommodates the needs of 420 residents. SW staff with JHSF staff / volunteers engage 40-65 residents /day in songwriting and performance. Songwriting Works on the Olympic Peninsula (SWOP, January 2009-present) serves isolated older adults in rural Western Washington. Northwest Care’s Dungeness Courte Dementia Care in Sequim, WA hosted the first series of eight two-hour workshops (May-July) with a culminating performance for participants and families in July 8, 2009.

Why is it successful?

Twenty years in the field, research, publications, awards, 3,000 participants, and 300 songs confirm SW’s successful adaptation to participants’ health/cultural needs, integrating social engagement, musical expression, and empowerment. Outcomes are measured via songwriting itself, oral/written participant / audience surveys, interviews, and testimonials. More than 3,000 elders have composed SW songs since 1990. In 2009-10, 80% have early to late-stage Alzheimer’s or other dementias.

For more information: www.songwritingworks.org