Have you ever had the experience of hearing a song that brought memories flooding back? Maybe that song was from your wedding or high school prom. For most of us, accessing those memories is easy. But for the millions of Americans living with dementia, Alzheimer’s, or other cognitive impairment, those memories can be locked inside.
Last month, Activate Good matched volunteers from Redeye with local nonprofit, A Helping Hand, to make a difference in the lives of local seniors suffering from these diseases. The goal: to bring back buried memories with music.
All they needed were some iPod shuffles, headphones, and some music downloaded from iTunes.
Together, A Helping Hand and Redeye used programming from the national organization Music & Memory to get started. Founded in 2013, Music & Memory “brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving the quality of life.” Through scientific research, Music & Memory demonstrated that music can help these people “reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories.” A 2014 documentary, Alive Inside, showcases their work by filming the reactions of seniors receiving these iPods. Music & Memory shows how one recipient, Henry, visibly enlivens upon hearing the music. It not only improves his mood, but has an amazing side effect: It brings back some of his ability to communicate. Family members and caregivers can now connect with him in a way that they thought was lost.
Activate Good nonprofit partner, A Helping Hand, wanted to bring this same magic to local seniors. They had eight clients they thought would be perfect candidates for this program.
Founded in 1995, A Helping Hand assists seniors to age in place by pairing them with volunteer companions. Always looking for ways to better serve their clients’ needs, they became a certified member of the Music & Memory program in 2015.
“We believe in the power of music to enhance the quality of life for our seniors,” says Executive Director Jennifer Ashley.
A Helping Hand needed someone to fill those iPods with songs. But first they needed to find out what music might trigger memories for each senior.
Enter Redeye, a music distribution company whose local team is led by Billy Maupin. With the help of Activate Good, Jennifer and Billy partnered up to begin the project.
With the assistance of family members and caregivers, A Helping Hand built a profile for each client: when they were born, where they grew up, and what genres of music they enjoy. They even got into the nitty-gritty by asking about concerts they attended, music they liked to dance to, favorite tv shows or movies, and whether they could hum a favorite song.
“Making playlists can easily turn into detective work. Who better than staff at a music company to curate special playlists?” asked Jennifer. “Do you know the names of the most popular southern gospel singers of the 1950’s? Redeye does!”
Billy Maupin rounded up 20 volunteers from his company to get to work. They searched iTunes for music and loaded the songs to iPod shuffles.
“Our employees found it a rewarding challenge to read descriptions of the clients and develop playlists specific to their needs,” said Billy.
With the iPods ready to go, it was time to share them with the clients.
“All of the clients were thrilled to have them and recognized songs. They shared stories with their companions and were touched by the gesture,” said Jennifer Ashley.
With these simple iPods, the size of a matchbook, these seniors can now get some new hope back into their lives. Congratulations to A Helping Hand and Redeye for their successful partnership!