This year, instead of giving a gift card from a favorite bookstore or a DVD from the Met Opera Shop, how about giving an iPod or donation to Music and Memory in the name of that special someone? A non-profit organization, Music and Memory brings music to the elderly and disabled, particularly those with Alzheimer’s, and the results have been nothing short of amazing.
Music and Memory was founded in 2010 by visionary Dan Cohen, a social worker with a background in high tech training. A few years earlier, Cohen had decided that if he ended up in a nursing home, he wanted to be able to listen to his favorite music. iPods were becoming increasingly popular, and he had a brainstorm about bringing iPods with personalized playlists to residents in nursing homes.
At the time, he discovered that none of the 16,000 nursing care facilities in the US used iPods for their residents, so he founded Music and Memory; the non-profit has been responsible for implementing iPod personalized music programs in hundreds of care facilities in the US and Canada.
Although Cohen was quite certain that listening to music would be helpful therapy, no one could have predicted how amazingly successful it would be.
The documentary, Alive Inside, follows the work of Cohen and his iPod program and powerfully demonstrates music’s ability to combat memory loss. The winner of the Audience Award for U.S. Documentaries at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and released to theaters in the U.S. in July, the film has remarkable and inspiring footage of Alzheimers patients who come alive when listening to iPods personalized with music that has been important to them at earlier times in their lives.
The change from literally no interaction with others to being lively and engaged seems almost magical. But it isn’t magic. Neuroscientists say that the many parts of the brain involved in music listening and the memories associated with that music are usually not the areas of the brain that are affected by Alzheimers, so even though someone suffering from Alzheimers may be unable to interact with the world most of the time, listening to music actually activates many areas of their brains. They are able to recall memories that are unavailable to them without music acting as a trigger.
You can donate a “gently used iPod” to Music and Memory, or make a donation to support the creation of individualized playlists or the purchase of new iPods.
And if you want to see the miraculous stories of some of these people who have come alive by listening to music, check the Alive Inside website for locations of a screening near you, purchase the DVD from Amazon, or download the film on iTunes. Watching this uplifting film will make you feel good, and a donation to Music and Memory may be the most meaningful holiday gift you give.
Wishing you a holiday full of music, merriment, and happy memories!
Photo credits: © katyamaximenko/Fotolia.com, © Hunor Kristo/Fotolia.com