I’ve witnessed the power of music with my Mom, who has advanced dementia.
On days when making conversation is difficult for her, she may ride quietly in the passenger seat of the car, or read a few signs we pass, or maybe whisper both sides of a conversation with someone I can’t see.
However, if the radio is set between a 40’s station and a light 70’s station, she’ll sing along. She’ll check the display to read the artist and song.
The songs trigger memories and conversation.
“Gosh, if I had a nickel for every time my girlfriends and I danced to this song.”
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name….I always thought their sound was just so pleasing to the ears.”
I know even this small bit of stimulation is good for her, and it is enjoyable to see.
A few months ago, I joined her for a Sunday afternoon of Christmas Carols at the care facility where she lives.
We sat amid a crowd of residents – many with dementia, and sea of walkers and wheelchairs,
Maybe I’ve watched too many Fa-la-la-la-Lifetime and Hallmark movies, but I swear Mike the piano player looked exactly like Kris Kringle in street clothes.
His repertoire included all the classics. He was delightful!
Occasionally, he stopped singing and let the group finish a line of a song.
The residents knew all the lyrics to every song.
I smiled as I looked around the room, and saw the heads bopping back and forth and the toes tapping in rhythm with the music.
No one was restless, agitated, or sitting in a dull, detached state.
The residents were relaxed and engaged with Mike and his performance.
It was fascinating to watch.
Somehow, the music magically melted through the fog of dementia.
I was so moved by what I was witnessing that I got a little teary.
Instead of looking sort of stone-faced as she had the previous day, Mom was animated.
She happily smiled at my phone so I could snap a pic.
The memory of that afternoon is a treasure.
A few days ago, my friend Terri, emailed me about a news story she had seen featuring Music & Memory – Muncie.
This new program was started by a group of freshman at Ball State University. It is affiliated with Music & Memory, a national non-profit 501c3 organization, but the BSU students believe they are the first college-based group.
The mission of Music & Memory – Muncie is to bring iPods with personalized playlists to the elderly, especially those suffering with dementia and Alzheimer’s.
They recognize that personalized music can enhance the quality of life for these nursing home residents with cognitive disorders.
This is a brilliant and beautiful program. I remember the soundtrack of my college years. These college freshman are just beginning to compile theirs. I love their awareness that these older folks had a soundtrack to their lives, too.
By speaking to a resident’s family, they learn what genre and artists the resident likes.
With this simple idea they’re delivering more than just music.
They’re sparking happy memories.
They share friendship, love and compassion.
With the use of splitters, the students listen to the music through their own set of headphones.
Because music sounds best when shared, doesn’t it?
What an amazing way to enrich and humanize an isolated, nursing home existence.
When I read about their work and looked at the heartwarming photos, I was again moved to tears.
I was also filled with some Hoosier pride.
These college freshman are a great example of making the world a better place, by beginning in your own “backyard.”
They’re using their time and talents, employing a little bit of technology, but more importantly – a whole lotta heart.
If this “strikes a chord” with you, like it did with me, and you are interested in supporting this wonderful program, there are a few ways you can help:
- Visit their gofundme page and make a quick donation. Super easy and every little bit helps!
- Have you or your kids upgraded to a new iPod? Do you have a gently-used iPod (preferably an iPod shuffle) sitting around the house? They’ll take it!
- Grab an iTunes gift card the next time you’re at the grocery store. They’re always right there in the checkout area. Then instead of buying Candy Crush lives – boost some more interesting and real lives.
iTunes cards or gently used iPods can be mailed to:Music and Memory – Muncie c/o TCOM Dept. Ball State University Muncie, IN 47306
I hope you’ll consider helping these remarkable BSU students with their inspirational program.
In an email to me, Tyler Sparkman, President of Music & Memory – Muncie wrote:
It has become an absolute joy and life changing experience working with these residents. Not only have we gone in and helped change the lives of the elderly by sharing these personal iPod mixes, but the elderly have also changed our lives!
Well, that is music to my ears.
Clearly, no matter what genre of music they load on those iPods, these students ROCK!