Hymns for Alzheimer’s new partner: Music & Memory

The Hymns for Alzheimer’s project has taken a new leap into the world! I’ve recently partnered with Music & Memory, a wonderful nonprofit that trains caregivers how to create personalized music playlists for seniors with dementia.

By donating my Hymns for Alzheimer’s music files, Music & Memory members now have access to hymns and spiritual songs for the first time.

“Music & Memory is all about reconnecting individuals with music that holds personal meaning,” Founding Executive Director Dan Cohen told me in an email. “For many, hymns and other religious music provide a sense of comfort, even joy.  We are thrilled to be able to facilitate this connection in partnership with Spiritual Eldercare to make this happen.”

You’ve Gotta Hear This

In 2006, Dan was thinking ahead to his own elder years and knew that, no matter where he lived, he wanted to be able to listen to his beloved ‘60s music. He’d heard about iPods and wondered why no long-term care facilities were using them for their residents. As a volunteer at a local nursing home, he started creating personalized playlists on iPods for residents – and found it was a huge success.

Today, Music & Memory teaches caregiver staff and family members how to create and use personalized playlists for elders with Alzheimer’s and dementia. Once a residence becomes a certified provider, staff can access Music & Memory’s music library of numerous genres – classical, jazz, ‘60s hits, etc. – to customize an iPod or MP3 player with songs that an elder loves. Today there are 10,000 subscribers as certified providers.

Music & Memory’s work gained huge awareness in 2012 when a video clip of Henry went viral. Henry was an elderly man who was almost completely non-responsive until he came alive through listening to music on an iPod.

If you haven’t already seen this (and even if you have), it’s totally worth the 6 minutes:

Why Hymns?

Did you notice that when Henry’s caregiver is asked what kind of music Henry would like on his iPod, she says “religious music”? Her response highlights why I desperately wanted to make these hymn recordings.

When I started chaplain work, I couldn’t find any hymns online that were specifically arranged for elders with dementia.

There are plenty of hymn downloads with majestic choral accompaniments, soaring organ music, country twang, backup singers, all the glorious verses, and the like. But there were no hymns that were slow, short, in a lower key, and with simple arrangements – in other words, accessible as sing-alongs for those with dementia-related cognition loss.

In my experience, for many people these classic hymns and spiritual songs are an invaluable link to their past and to God’s never-changing faithfulness and love. I see these dear elders come alive, like Henry, every time we start to sing.

Into the World and Onto iPods

I emailed Dan Cohen at Music & Memory and heard back from him the same day. As soon as I could, I provided the Hymns for Alzheimer’s files to upload to Music & Memory’s library – which up until now, surprisingly, didn’t have any hymns.

The library is a private site available only to certified M&M providers, but they gave me a screen shot so you can see a sample how the Hymns for Alzheimer’s listings look:

Like Dan, I am thrilled that Music & Memory providers will now find these in their provider library. May God use these recordings to bless elders!

Earbuds image by Jeff Klugiewicz from Pixabay

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