Watching the documentary, Alive Inside, A Story of Music and Memory, inspired me to reach out to www.musicandmemory.org and learn more about bringing music to people with dementia/Alzheimer’s. Last year after writing the post, “Music Changes Everything,” I have kept a mental log of how my clients responded to certain music.
As I watched the documentary, learning about the project to bring iPods with personalized music to individuals in the 16,000 US nursing homes, I was astounded to learn in some cases, the iPods are rejected. Nursing homes are usually places where people are waiting to die, mostly unresponsive and inside themselves completely. A set of headphones and a tiny iPod created a miracle for some of these elders. They woke up; the music brought back memories attached to parts of the brain that remain retrievable.
My experience with music and memory has been exciting to witness. Recently, I was playing music from the 40’s, when my 88-year old client, who walks with cane, came in and the minute she recognized the her tunes, down went the cane down and she started dancing. Watching her face and eyes light up, her body moves freely and her feet move unaided by a cane made me jump for joy.
Researching more information, I discovered Executive Director Dan Cohen founded Music & Memory with a simple idea: Someday, if he ended up in a nursing home, he wanted to be able to listen to his favorite ‘60s music. He’d heard a recent news report about how iPods have grown so popular. Why not bring used iPods as well as new ones into nursing homes to provide personalized music for residents?
When Dan had his brainstorm in 2006, he discovered that none of the 16,000 long-term care facilities in the U.S. used iPods for their residents. Drawing on his background in leveraging technology to benefit those who would otherwise have no access, he volunteered at a local nursing home in Greater New York, creating personalized playlists for residents. The program was a hit with residents, staff and families, and became the prototype for a bigger effort.
ALIVE INSIDE, A Story of Music and Memory, premiered April 2012. When a video clip of Henry, one of the residents reawakened by listening to his Cab Calloway favorites, went viral, now with more than 11 million views, this boosted awareness and enthusiastic interest in the program. Since then, they have implemented iPod personalized music programs in hundreds of care facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Music changed everything for another client, 87 years old, who shows up at the gym 3 times a week “no matter what” with her usual curmudgeon attitude and very painful knees. The 40’s usually playing in the background while she exercises. When one of “her” dancing songs comes on, her face and eyes light up with memories retrieved and shared. Her attitude, energy and pain are changed; all at a time of her life when she thinks nothing can change.
Here are two more examples of music changing everything at the gym. My 73-year-old client, who has chronic life-altering sciatica, can dance up a storm to the 50’s, only giving out when she becomes exhausted! Another client, 87, who is a lifelong musician, can hold a “plank for 7 minutes” only when the 40’s are playing, loud! When a tune plays that is near and dear to his heart, I know I will get to hear more stories about the l940’s and the great ones.
Apple is involved in helping by offering 7% discount when ordering iPods for nursing homes. The tiny iPods bring life where there isn’t any. Music and memory.org also has a program to receive gently used IPods for distribution. Find out what the world is saying, Music and memory news.
Reaching out to help our elders, helping them to make the best of the rest of their lives with music has moved me to explore what is possible where I live. While most people feel there is nothing to do than wait for their elders to die unreachable, this story firmly confirms there is a way to wake them up. Join in, watch, take time to follow the links, investigate, share this post, and ask what you do can to help our elders enjoy life before they are gone. Thank you, Janis