Music As Memory Therapy

By Jack Sharkey, April 27, 2016.

Got an old iPod laying around you don't use anymore because all of that 2007 technology is just so archaic? There are people who might benefit greatly by you removing it from that junk drawer in the kitchen and sending it their way.  

 

Music is emotion. It’s almost a meaningless cliché at this point, and that’s not a good thing. Music is the very translation of feelings into something shareable. Music makers are translators of feeling, and everyone involved in the creation or sharing of music is involved in the sharing and translation of emotion. Since the essence of being human is our ability to feel and intellectualize emotion, it stands to reason that music is a basic human necessity.

 

Current estimates place the number of Americans with some form of Alzheimer's or dementia at 5.1 million, so it’s safe to say we’re all in this together. Like most other Americans, I have a relative with Alzheimer’s. I don’t have a lot to talk with her about – baseball and whether or not I had a good day at work are pretty much about it. And there is still music. Frank Sinatra and the Big Bands bring about a peace and a calm and that ever diminishing smile but so do the Beach Boys and Curtis Mayfield. No singer am I, but every once in a while I’ll belt out a tune for her (a capella of course) and the connection is as strong as ever.

 

For more information, click here to listen to our podcast with the Music & Memory Project founder and Executive Diect Dan Cohen.

 

 

     

The music of our youth was no better than the music being made today, but the difference is the music of our youth ties us to our emotional pasts – our first loves, our first losses, the freedom of youth, the anxiety of being young. Emotion and memory are very closely tied together. Think about the first time you fell in love and now go find that song you remember about him or her. Play the song. See what I mean? “Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience,” says noted neurologist Oliver Sacks. “Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory…it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.”

 

Musical experience (and aptitude) are often the last mental skills to disappear so caregivers are increasingly depending on music to keep contact with persons suffering from advanced stages of dementia. Lyrics, when set to music, are retained more often than lyrics recited to patients and group singing brings about a reawakening of personality otherwise obscured by the disease. Dancing has also been shown to open up ambulatory patients to their caregivers – the dancing leads to very basic displays of affection like hand-holding, hugging and kissing, and those displays in turn open up some memories. None of this is a cure, but it is a way to stay in touch with patients as long as possible through the progression of the disease.  

 

So hold on to your music because it’s the key to your life in more ways than we can imagine, and share the joy of music with those you are afraid of losing touch with – regardless of the reason, but most especially those whose memories are fading away.

 

For more information and to donate please hit this link to visit Music And Memory . org.

For more information on the Alive Inside documentary please hit this link.

For more information on the information in this post please visit these links:

 

 

The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and not necessarily those of KEF or its employees.

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Comments

  • Debbe Wise
    .
    Music big part of my life. Television not allowed in my house.
  • Dave Egerman
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    Music has always been a part of my wife's and my world. Thanks for sharing these clips. The message to me is: we must keep music (including singing and dancing) in our lives to help slow down the progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment to Alzheimer's Disease!!
  • Randy Coller
    .
    No Television in my house either, for about eight years now. It's great.

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