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Using Music & Memory to Improve Quality of Life for Those with Dementia

Dan Cohen is Founder and Executive Director of Music & Memory, which connects those with cognitive and physical limitations with their favorite music to improve their quality of life. It is especially helpful for persons with dementia. The program currently operates in more than 3,000 nursing homes, hospices, home care programs and adult day programs in all 50 states and eight countries. An award-winning documentary, Alive Inside: The Story of Music & Memory, is available for viewing on Netflix.com.

Dan Cohen, Founder and Executive Director of Music and Memories

Dan Cohen

“When we love music, it’s really not our cognition deciding, ‘Yes, I like this song.’ It’s our emotional system that it’s tied to. And because our emotional system’s intact,” Dan explains, “we will still love those same songs, regardless of whether our cognition decline in terms of short-term memory.”

Sarah Matas, Resident Services Administrator at Barclay Friends

Sarah Matas

Sarah Matas, Resident Services Administrator at Barclay Friends in West Chester, Pennsylvania, helped launch a Music & Memory program there last year. “We have a work group that helps residents and their families describe for us their favorite music. And we have a group of wonderful students from Westtown School who come and play music for residents and see which music they respond to,” Sarah says. “Then we create personalized iPod playlists for every single resident with dementia and train staff to use the iPods throughout the day and evening for the residents. We’re looking to increase engagement, but also decrease the anxiety, upset and agitation that sometimes comes with dementia.”