Sharing songs, making music.

Each Saturday morning for the last 12 months Ting has headed to St Andrews Care Home in South Dunedin where she volunteers, playing the piano and interacting with many of the 78 residents.

Ting began volunteering at St Andrews after seeing an online ad looking for volunteers to play music in the home. As an international student, Ting was finding herself feeling isolated, and she was keen to do something meaningful that connected her with other people.

One of the first challenges that Ting needed to overcome was not being familiar with the songs that residents knew and loved.

“Sue gave me sheet music for some favourite tunes and I had to learn to play them. This was very different from the music I played growing up. Many of the songs, like Loch Lomond, I had to learn from scratch.”

The challenge of learning the songs didn’t stop Ting’s enthusiasm. As she was often playing in an area of the home with resident who are living with various levels of dementia Ting also began reading and researching about dementia, the brain and psychology. She discovered this was something she became passionate about.

Using music and dance (Ting’s professional background) to enhance wellness for older adults living with dementia is the central topic of a Masters thesis, which Ting is completing through the University of Otago. Interaction with St Andrews residents over the last year has formed part of her research for the thesis.

Amongst all of this, Saturday playing has remained an essential part of Ting’s week.  You get the sense she wouldn’t miss it for anything.

“Playing here each week is an outlet for me, and it helps me get through the week. I see it as karma where I am doing something good for others. It has given me real comfort during a challenging family time I went through recently.”

“The responses from residents may not be very visible but I know playing music brings something positive to the home. I play a mix of fast and slow pieces and different songs appeal to different people. Some tap along or sing, and when I’m finished the residents will clap and smile.”

Ting has been enjoying playing the piano a little extra this month, after two pianos were donated by Dunedin residents who responded to a public request for pianos. Our heartfelt thanks to the generous individuals who donated these pianos, which are now being played at St Andrews.

When asked to sum up how she feels about playing the newly donated pianos, Ting suggested one of the songs she plays represents her thoughts. Which song might this be? Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!


Presbyterian Support Otago always needs more volunteers to assist with our Family Works and Enliven programmes, and in our shops. Find out more about volunteering here.