Music and Memories

MARSHALL – Marshall High School sophomore Matthew Rich knew he wanted to do something special for his Eagle Scout project – something that had meaning to him.

So he incorporated his love of music with memories of his grandmother who suffered from dementia to bring songs into nursing homes.

Rich stumbled upon an article about an organization called Music & Memory that works to provide iPods and songs to nursing homes and assisted living facilities. For his Scout project, he aims to gather 25 to 30 iPods for residents at Avera Morningside Heights and create personalized playlists for the residents.

“They were quite excited when I proposed the idea,” Rich said.

Dan Cohen founded Music & Memory 2010 after working with nursing homes in Greater New York and researching the effects of music on their residents. Cohen found that just by listening to music from their younger years, residents experienced profound improvements in their moods, memory and overall enjoyment of life. According to Music & Memory, residents with dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other diseases that damage the brain are said to “reconnect to the world and gain improved quality of life from listening to personal music favorites.”

Jackie Esping, a nurse supervisor at Avera Morningside Heights, has been working with Rich on the Music & Memory project and believes that it will bring new life to some of the residents.

“I think when they are unsettled they can listen to music from their era to relax,” Esping said.

Rich, along with help from his fellow Scouts, will be loading the iPods with music suggested by the residents and their families. Meanwhile, staff from Avera will get online training from Music & Memory on how to deploy the iPods and introduce them to residents.

“I had a patient who couldn’t talk, but we would put on music and he would sing,” Esping said. “I think we are going to bring out some people we don’t usually get communication from with this music.”

Rich still has a few months’ worth of work before he completes his eagle scout project and said that they are still looking for more iPods to be donated for the project. New over-the-ear headphones, used iPods and iTunes gift cards can be donated at Avera Morningside Heights.

“I would like to continue with this project even when I’ve completed my eagle scout badge,” Rich said.