MOST of us would be more accustomed to seeing a harp at weddings or even a royal function, rather than in the hallways of an aged-care home.
But that's what residents at the new Villa Maria centre in Wantirna are experiencing, with a new harp therapy program introduced by one of just four qualified harp therapists in the country.
Harp therapist Carla Whiteley says the musical instrument has been considered a healing instrument since ancient times.
Research has shown that the therapy — especially its sounds and vibrations — helps lower blood pressure, reduce heart rates, limit anxiety and pain levels and bring a sense of calm and emotional balance to listeners.
It has also proved effective for dementia patients because familiar tunes help connect with their past. Ms Whiteley was recently at a nursing home when an older Polish woman with dementia became quite distressed.
"I didn't know any Polish tunes, but I did know some Hebrew melodies and as soon as I started playing those she began to try and sing along, which then calmed her down," Ms Whiteley said.
The therapy is new to Villa Maria, beginning only this month, but already residents eagerly wait for Ms Whiteley's regular visits.
Villa Maria lifestyle co-ordinator Zoe Peltekis said residents would ask the staff what time Ms Whiteley was coming and make sure they were seated before she arrived.
"During sessions, residents become calm, their facial expressions are gentle, there's not much frowning happening and they are attentive and listening," Ms Peltekis said.
But according to Ms Peltekis, one of the most beautiful parts of the therapy was when families became involved.
"We have had daughters and grandchildren of residents sit on the couch next to their grandma and listen as though they are listening to a magpie sing out in the garden — this is the only way I can describe it.
"They all seem peaceful and serene, all sitting together as a family experiencing something special."