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Music & Memory℠ – a Progress Report

Anneliese Peterson | Dec 16, 2015

Just over a year ago, Walker Methodist became the first organization in the Twin Cities to be recognized as a certified Music & Memory℠ program provider. It was an initiative we felt passionately about implementing in our communities to assist in memory care programs and support residents with memory loss. In the time since inception, we have brought music and associated memories to over 162 residents at Health Center - and our mission is not over.

Without Your Memories, Who Are You?


Music & Memory was founded by Executive Director Dan Cohen nearly 10 years ago when he considered his future – if, or when, he transitioned to senior living care, would he have access to his favorite music? This personal inquiry morphed into the national campaign it is today, as Cohen recognized a need for this type of musical access for seniors across the country. Walker Methodist’s Mission of Life. And all the living that goes with it. Enhancing the lives of older adults through a culture of care, respect and service, touches on our goal of ensuring older adults have the tools and care they need to live life to the fullest. Adopting Music & Memory℠ is a testament to that.

Most people associate music with some personal memory. Even hearing an opening tempo or verse can convey emotions for some individuals. And because of our mission relating to living, we’ve seen some pretty powerful stuff come from prescribing music vs. medicine in our memory care communities. 

  • Gladys. Prior to this program, Gladys was lost. Each afternoon, she would try to find her way home, and access the elevators. She was focused on her task; you couldn’t have a coherent conversation with her, or offer help. Gladys’ iPod contains piano and Big Band. Since she received her headphones, she’s calm. She no longer tries to find her way home, because she is home and the Miracle of Music gave her that peace of mind. 
  • Ginny. After a volunteer made her first playlist and put the headphones to her ears, Ginny said, “I don’t have long, but you’ve made my last days so meaningful,” as she wept. A week later she passed away.
  • Sally. She’s non-verbal and doesn’t make eye contact. When she was first introduced to her iPod containing classical music and hymns, she stated, “what beautiful music!” Since then, we’ve seen Sally waving to staff and anytime we try to remove her headphones she starts making lots of noise and when asked if she wants music she answers, “yes!”

Music & Memory℠ Goes Global

Rooted in New York, Music & Memory℠ started on small scale. Today, its reach has far surpassed domestic boundaries and has affected people all over the world. In fact, people on the other side of the cause are garnering attention for the program, too. Musicians like Nashville-based Leah Nobel who donates $5 of her exclusive merchandise sales to Music & Memory℠ have seen the positive effects of the program on people near and dear to them. In Nobel’s case, her autistic brother benefiting from music propelled her to join the cause. Aside from memory, Music & Memory℠ has been shown to affect:

  • Heller’s Syndrome – a childhood Disintegrative Disorder
  • Increased communication and speech
  • Decreased agitation and anxiety 
  • Rehabilitation
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder
  • Connection and ease in the dying process
  • Increased alertness
  • Decreased falls / wandering

Music & Memory with Local Ties

In June, Walker Methodist was lucky to receive 20 inscribed iPod Shuffles from Wayzata Community Church and specifically, their Mission and Outreach board. At WCC, they have a dedicated Music & Memory committee dedicated to raising funds and donations for the program in places like Walker Methodist. As the state’s first certified Music & Memory program provider, we’ve been pioneering this great initiative and we couldn’t pave the way without the support of WCC and so many others who’ve made the commitment to further the reach of Music & Memory℠. 

At Health Center, our first dedicated Music & Memory volunteer began in February of this year. Now, we have nine volunteers committed to the cause, and five of the original volunteers have completed 328 hours of dedicated Music & Memory volunteer work. We are grateful for the support and know we are all making a difference.

Your help is still needed; 7.7 million new cases of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia emerge in the United States. Music & Memory℠ arms individuals with the best form of treatment in the form of their beloved, familiar music. One iPod Shuffle with a customized playlist will make an everlasting impact on an individual trying to maintain their precious memories. Consider supporting the cause to keep people tied to their memories.


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