Music & Memory is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.
We train nursing home staff and other elder care professionals, as well as family caregivers, 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.
By providing access and education, and by creating a network of certified Music & Memory elder care facilities, we aim to make this form of personalized therapeutic music a standard of care throughout the health care industry.
How Music & Memory Began
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 nursing homes in the U.S. used iPods for their residents. Drawing on his background in leveraging technology to benefit people 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.
With funding from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in 2008, Dan brought 200 iPods to residents of four more New York nursing homes and tested the program on a larger scale. Successful outcomes spurred the creation of Music & Memory as a 501c3 non-profit.
Since then, we have implemented iPod personalized music programs in more than 140 facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. A 2011 matching grant outreach effort provided digital music players, headphones, music, training and support to qualifying facilities and has significantly helped to advance our mission.
In April 2012, a documentary about our work, Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory, was screened at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. A video clip of Henry, one of the residents reawakened by listening to his Cab Calloway favorites, went viral, with more than 7 million views. The resulting outpouring of interest and support for our work gives us great hope that our vision of personalized therapeutic music as a gold standard of elder care will be realized.