Music for Memory
June 10, 2016
Music is incredibly powerful. In moments, it can change moods, manage stress, and trigger memories. In fact, most people can relate to hearing a song that instantly transports them to a specific time in their life. It should be no surprise then that music therapy is a vital part of programs at assisted living facilities. For their Impact Project, students from Cincinnati Christian School in Ohio decided to champion these music programs in their own community in an effort to help a generation of people facing dementia. The result was a project filled with love and compassion, learning, and growth.
“There were a few ideas on the table, but none felt right,” explained Facilitator Shari Parker. Sparked by a recent conversation with an assisted living facility in the area, Shari suggested the idea of donating MP3 players. Students unanimously agreed. The group chose Doverwood, a facility within a mile of the school, along with their sister property Chesterwood Village. Both facilities have Memory Care units for patients in various stages of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Students initiated a plan to raise funds for 23 MP3 players — enough for the memory care units of both facilities. Yet ultimately, students wanted to be more involved than handing over a box of electronics. So they planned a 1950’s inspired event at Doverwood for residents of both facilities that would allow them to celebrate with residents and personally deliver MP3 players.
Early on, Shari and student Hannah Ferguson went to Doverwood to discuss the project. “Getting together and discussing a game plan made leadership and the project a reality,” recalled Hannah.
Students also made a pre-trip to meet residents and learn about what to expect. “It was an eye opening meeting for students, and an important part of making sure everyone was prepared for how to interact with residents,” elaborated Facilitator Shari.
The event was 50’s themed, replete with 50’s music, décor, root beer floats, and food catered by their sponsoring Chick-fil-A Operator, Daryl Nelson, who also attended the event with his family. In fact, Daryl’s wife was the Chick-fil-A Cow for the event.
Each student was assigned a room number and took the residents’ food orders. After the meal, students led the facility’s more ambulatory residents through a Sock Hop where students danced and residents bopped and hand-jived in their seats— a few even got up and danced with the students.
“Students did an outstanding job, and the staff at Doverwood loved their heart and desire,” recalled Operator Daryl Nelson. “It was an inspiring event. Since then, our restaurant has opened a great partnership with the facility.”
Then, students sat with residents and their new MP3 players, already loaded with music recommended by the facility. Facilitator Shari recalled one resident whose reaction she was particularly moved by. She put her hands up to her ears, closed her eyes, and swayed. “She was lost in another world. It was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen,” said Shari, holding back tears.
And with that, it was done. A successful day behind them, student Hannah reflected, “In the future I am going to work at making service a bigger part of my life. I’ve learned through this experience that if you want to serve, you will make an impact.”