It’s wonderful when big organizations like AARP are communicating to their 37 million members about the healing power of music. This is what Dean Evenson and I have been talking about and teaching for over three decades and it feels like the ‘mainstream’ is finally catching up. An article in the recent AARP Bulletin shares advances in helping Alzheimer’s patients by using music and the results are amazing. In his book Musicophilia, neurologist, Oliver Sacks, states that music can be very much like medicine for Alzheimer’s patients. “Music in no luxury to them, but a necessity, and it can have a power beyond anything else to restore them to themselves, and to others, at least for a while.”
In a study at George Mason University, Jane Flinn, a behavioral neuroscientist along with graduate student, Linda Maguire, tested a group of patients with various forms of dementia who regularly sang familiar songs like ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ and ‘Isn’t It Romantic.’ In observing them over four months, the researchers discovered that the mental acuity of those who regularly sang went up considerably. With the ineffectiveness of many pharmaceutical drugs to deal with dementia, it is exciting to witness the benefits of alternative approaches.
A group in Minneapolis even formed a choir of people living with Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases and their caregivers. Since people with these diseases have difficulty navigating through many phases of their lives, being able to laugh and be joyful through singing can lift the spirit and improve connectivity and engagement.
Some of you may have seen the recent film called Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory. Or maybe you were one of the 11 million people who watched the clip from the movie that went viral on YouTube. It showed an Alzheimer’s patient named Henry who was reawakened listening to a favorite song by Cab Calloway, clearly showing the power of sound to reconnect the neural pathways of memory.
Dan Cohen, founded Music and Memory initially to provide iPods with personalized music for elderly patients in nursing homes. He started by donating 200 iPods and now the program has expanded to hundreds of facilities throughout the country. One of the states that has picked up the ball and is running with it is Wisconsin where two-thirds of the state’s nursing homes use personalized playlists of music as part of daily caregiving routines. Here’s a statement by Deb Jacoby of the Rocky Knoll Health Care Center that attests to the benefits of personalized music for patients ~ “iPods are making a huge impact here in Wisconsin. I have about 30 iPods in use at this time. Families are excited about how some of their loved ones are more engaged in conversation, in better moods, and actually awake and more engaged throughout the day.”
So the blessings of finding Peace Through Music continue. We are glad to be part of this important movement and look forward to learning how we can contribute more to the healing of people and the planet. Visit us at soundings.com to learn about the part of the universe we are playing in.
If you are interested in learning more about the healing power of music you might want to check out our DailyOM online course called EXPERIENCE MUSIC AS MEDICINE. It’s practically free (you just pay what you want to or can afford). Also available as a ten DVD set called SONIC HEALING: MEET THE MASTERS VIDEO COURSE. A bit more expensive but then you have the videos and they include Public Performance Rights so you can show them in public.