What’s the focus of Music & Memory?
We train elder care professionals how to provide personalized music to residents or clients suffering from Alzheimer’s, other forms of dementia and a wide range of mental, physical and social challenges.
There is growing evidence that personalized music significantly improves quality of life for these elders and enables them to reconnect with the world for varying amounts of time. Our goal is to make the therapeutic benefits of personalized music available to elder care residents and clients everywhere.
Why the emphasis on Apple iPods?
For people at home, any MP3 player can be used for personalized music, as long as someone is available to set it up and operate the unit on a day-to-day basis.
Elder care professionals, however, tell us that MP3 players are less reliable in an environment where the devices are dropped frequently. By contrast, when the organizations change to iPods, the devices seem to stand up much better.
In addition, donated MP3 players each have different physical layouts and controls. For busy staff, it can be very frustrating to manage a variety of donated MP3 players, and they are less likely to continue with the program for residents. Staff are glad to manage iPods, since they have only one basic mode of operation and are easy to handle.
What’s your relationship with Apple?
None. Music & Memory is a 501c3 nonprofit. But we wouldn’t object to their support.
Why don’t you use other digital music players?
We gladly accept donations of any type of digital music player. But experience has taught us that elders who have difficulty with fine motor coordination find it easier to operate the iPod Shuffle. It’s simple to use and understand.
In addition, care organization staff have been able to manage multiple iPods in a minimal amount of time by plugging them into iTunes’ auto-update feature. We’re always open to any suggestions of alternative technology that provides the same ease of use.
It’s worth noting that iPods are the only digital music players with built-in accessibility features. That’s a real plus for older users. Our recommendation of iPods is based a lot of thought and testing.
When was Music & Memory founded?
Dan Cohen had the idea for Music & Memory in 2006 when he realized if he ended up in a nursing home someday, he’d want to take along his favorite ‘60s music. With iPods gaining popularity, he thought about bringing new or gently used iPods to nursing homes and introducing personalized playlists.
None of the 16,000 nursing homes across the U.S. were using iPods at the time. A social worker and experienced community organizer with a background in high tech, Dan launched a pilot program at a Long Island nursing home. 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 long-term care facilities and tested the program on a larger scale. Successful outcomes spurred the creation of Music & Memory as a 501c3 non-profit.
How many elder care facilities are using Music & Memory’s program?
We have implemented our personalized music program in more than 60 elder care facilities throughout the U.S. and Canada. A 2011 matching grant outreach effort provided digital music players, headphones, music, training and support to qualifying organizatons and has significantly helped to advance our mission.
What proof is there that personalized music really benefits
people with dementia?
Decades of neuroscience research about the brain-music connection have built a strong case for the ways that familiar music associated with significant personal memories can help dementia patients reconnect with the world, at least for a time.
In addition, we continually evaluate the impact of our program on residents of our Certified Music & Memory Care Organizations. Our Spring 2012 survey revealed that professional staff felt personalized music had significantly benefited their residents.
Among our findings: 71 percent of respondents believed that the program had helped many of their residents suffering from anxiety; 74 percent felt personalized music helped professional staff provide care for residents. And 94 percent of responding professionals said they would be very likely to recommend the program to other long-term care facilities.
When will Alive Inside be available for viewing by the general public?
Alive Inside: The Story of Music and Memory, a film documentary about Dan Cohen’s pioneering work with bringing personalized music to elderly nursing home residents, will be in wide release in Summer 2013.
The film was produced and directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett of Ximotion Media. He will make available a rough cut of the documentary for conferences and universities, upon request.