Music & Memory Program to Aid Local Older Adults

senior listening to musicMusic—whether an old-time standard like “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If it Ain’t Got That Swing)” by Duke Ellington or “In the Mood” by Glenn Miller—can brighten the day for older dementia patients and help them reconnect with the world, at least for a bit.

That’s why the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) has approved a $30,000 grant to the Senior Resource Alliance (SRA) to fund the replication of the Music & Memory program at 12 nursing homes, assisted living centers and adult day care centers throughout WPHF’s service area.  Music & Memory uses iPods to bring personalized music into the lives of frail older adults, vastly improving their quality of life.

The idea for the Music & Memory program began when Executive Director Dan Cohen, MSW, had a simple request: he said, if he ended up in a nursing home someday, he wanted to be able to listen to his favorite ‘60s music. Recognizing the popularity of iPods and other digital music players, he had an idea.  What if these portable devices were used to provide personalized music for residents in nursing homes?  How would they impact residents?

In 2006, Mr. Cohen piloted the program at a nursing home in Greater New York where he volunteered. The program was a hit with residents, staff and families, and became the prototype for a bigger effort.  Now, thanks to its successful outcomes, Music & Memory has grown to include hundreds of facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

The grant from WPHF will provide funds for Music & Memory to train nursing home staff and other elder care professionals, as well as family caregivers, in how to create and provide personalized playlists using iPods and related digital audio systems that enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.

another senior listening to musicThis training consists of three 90-minute webinars and one full year of coaching support. The grant also includes funds for the equipment, including 30 iPod shuffles, earphones, etc.  Once organizations complete the training, they are considered a certified Music & Memory elder care facility. It is hoped that by creating a network of Music & Memory certified facilities, personalized therapeutic music will become a standard of care throughout the health care industry.

The program’s potential isn’t limited to nursing homes and assisted living facilities.  Elsewhere in the country, the program also has been used in home health, rehab, infusion therapy and dialysis clinics. Outcomes include an improved quality of life, reduced agitation, enhanced engagement and socialization, increased cooperation and attention, and even the potential to reduce reliance on anti-psychotic and anti-anxiety medications.

In April 2012, a documentary about the Music & Memory program was screened at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. This documentary, “Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory,” won the 2014 Sundance Film Festival Audience Award and enjoyed a limited engagement at Regal Winter Park Village movie theater earlier this month. All in attendance witnessed the power of music and the therapeutic benefit the Music & Memory program offers to older adults with physical and cognitive impairments.

“For years, the Winter Park Health Foundation has been supportive of efforts to enhance the quality of life for frail older adults through efforts directed at person-centered care,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director for Older Adults. “Given the positive impact the Music & Memory program has had, we are delighted to replicate the program within WPHF’s service area.”

The program is set to launch on October 1.

For more information on the local program, call Ms. Silvey at 407-644-2300, ext. 232 or email her at dsilvey@wphf.org.