Music Sparks Great Awakening for Elders With Dementia

Special to The Atlanta Voice | 12/27/2013, 1:21 p.m.

Music & Memory logo.

Music & Memory logo.

Founded by Dan Cohen, a Long Island volunteer, social worker and former Department of Education consultant, Music & Memory began in 2008 when Cohen distributed 200 iPods in four New York City facilities and learned that the residents experienced increased socialization and better relationships thanks to the devices. The efforts have spread to more than 50 nursing homes across the US.

Music & Memory, the non-profit "re-awakening" elders with dementia through the use of music and iPods, scored an unlikely video hit last year that's been viewed more than seven million times. It features Henry, an unresponsive 94-year-old suffering from dementia in an elder care facility who was given an iPod loaded with the music of his youth and was transformed into a seemingly different person, humming, singing, smiling, and beginning to interact with the people around him. The story of Music & Memory has spread and drawn attention from The New York Times, LA Times, CNN, NPR "Morning Edition," and others.

Now, Music & Memory is embarking on an ambitious drive to encourage iPod donation drives nationwide and in the media, in order to provide iPods to nursing homes. One of the partner care facilities that receives these iPod donations is the Atlanta VA Medical Center.

Watch the viral video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NKDXuCE7LeQ.

Music & Memory has shown that providing the elderly with the music of their youth, regardless of physical, cognitive, or social condition, leads to vastly improved quality of life. The organization's strategy is to introduce iPods, iPads, and other personalized music devices to individuals suffering with cognitive disorders including Alzheimer's and dementia using inexpensive and non-intrusive tactics.

The viral video "Old Man In Nursing Home Reacts To Hearing Music From His Era" is taken from the upcoming documentary "Alive Inside," directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett, which features Cohen's mission of reconnecting those with memory loss with the music they love. Time observed "the music worked like a jolt of electricity for patients, transporting them back in time and even allowing them to speak animatedly after the music was turned off." Alive Inside was just chosen to be showcased at the Sundance Film Festival this coming January. More info here: http://aliveinside.us/.

In this segment, NPR All Things Considered’s Melissa Block explores how Music & Memory is revolutionizing elder care: http://www.npr.org/2012/04/18/150891711/for-elders-with-dementia-music-sparks-great-.

Click here to learn how to donate an iPod to Music & Memory - http://www.musicandmemory.org/give-an-ipod.html.