Connecting to Memories through Music

Organizations that received training and supplies as part of a $30,000 grant provided by the Winter Park Health Foundation (WPHF) through its Older Adults Work Group, enthusiastically shared best practices and cited the many benefits of the Music and Memory program at a recent gathering hosted by WPHF.  Funded in 2014, it was the first opportunity the twelve organizations had to meet and discuss the program which uses personal play lists on iPods to connect to long term memories of individuals with memory impairment.

Participants shared their individual experience in implementing the program and included tips for success as well as candid discussion of challenges.  The organizations funded included adult day care centers, nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and caregiver support programs, each of which has its own unique environment.

Music and Memory photoThere was overall agreement that the key to the program’s success lies in its very nature: focusing on the individual. Finding just the right songs to tap into long held memories is critical but not always easy, and it can be labor intensive.  Participants spoke of using family members, volunteers, and trial and error within various genres to hit upon songs that evoke the desired response.  A wide range of successes were cited: witnessing decreased agitation and anxiety, easing chronic pain, and providing an engaging activity for family members to connect to their loved one, often sharing songs and smiles.

“It was gratifying to see the grantees come together and share systems and processes they’ve devised for check out, cleaning, etc.; suggestions for creative uses of the equipment (for example, while waiting to see a physician); additional music sources to be considered when downloading songs; and the many ways their clients and families are benefiting from making these musical connections,” said Diana Silvey, WPHF Program Director – Older Adults.  “I am confident this program is improving the quality of life for individuals with memory impairment, their caregivers and family.”