What if we could unlock the buried, joyful memories of an elderly or infirm person with just a song, helping them connect with life again through music?
The MUSIC & MEMORY program, founded by Dan Cohen and based in Mineola, N.Y., was created as a nonprofit in 2010. Its mission is to “bring personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology” (www.musicandmemory.org). Since its inception, the program has successfully implemented iPod personalized music programs in care organizations throughout the United States and Canada.
The Sisters of Charity, BVM at Mount Carmel in Dubuque, Iowa, thank you for your contributions on #Giving Tuesday (www.bvmcong.org/support_donate.cfm) Nov. 29. Over $15,000 has been raised to help enrich the lives of our elderly sisters as they enjoy the music of their memories!
Three people—a BVM associate, BVM employee, and Dubuque Senior High School student—have come together, working to enhance the lives of our sisters in the memory care unit.
The idea to bring the therapeutic program to the elderly BVM sisters at Mount Carmel came from wellness department Activities Aide Dawn Merges. After staff viewed the documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” (http://bit.ly/1qKvUNk) showing the results of the MUSIC & MEMORY program, they were unanimously on board to initiate the program.
Challenges include engaging in research with the elderly sisters to learn about their favorite music from years gone by, obtaining iPods for storing the music, and educating and training staff to implement the program.
But Dawn feels the challenges are well worth it. The program “helps unlock isolation, relieves worry and anxiety, and facilitates pain management,” she says. “Seeing the sisters in their rooms—singing, smiling, tapping their feet, and enjoying their lives—is incredibly moving.”
BVM Associate Sharon Scully spends time visiting with the sisters, reminiscing and sharing. “My job is to talk to each sister and identify what kind of music she loves,” says Sharon. “We need to do this now, before the elderly sisters are no longer able to communicate with us.”
Sharon grew up in a house full of music and feels that she is simply “sharing with my friends, the sisters. And they teach me as well.” She believes that MUSIC & MEMORY generates opportunities as a multi-generational project—with tech-savvy younger aides and nurses helping the sisters to find new joy in life through the music of their memories while they, in turn, learn about the older generation.
Sibani Ram is not your typical high school sophomore. Like many young people, she likes music, books and learning about the world. But she also wants to do something about what she learns.
After watching the movie, “Still Alice,” which depicts a middle-aged college professor who finds herself battling Alzheimer’s disease, Sibani shares, “’Still Alice’ left me deeply stirred and scouring the internet for a creative way to help those with mental health illnesses.”
Looking for a local care center that used the program led her to the BVMs at Mount Carmel. “I’m grateful to have the chance to work with the sisters to advocate for the 24-hour online #GivingTuesday (www.bvmcong.org/support_donate.cfm) fundraiser on Nov. 29,” she says. “This is a terrific opportunity for anyone who believes in the power and delight of music. MUSIC & MEMORY is where the arts meet the sciences, transforming the quality of life, one care center at a time.”