There is something about music that brings up different emotions even when memories are no longer remembered. For 6 years, the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto has vowed to distribute 10 000 music players in hopes to bring joy to those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Inspired by an American documentary entitled, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory”, comes the Music Project.
Though I can imagine there are statistics and research proving the value music has on those with cognitive impairment, it is best understood when witnessed first hand. To those who have loved ones diagnosed with dementia you understand how they may not be the same person you have grown to know. They may be not as hygienic as they use to be, or they may even have developed some responsive behaviours.
The Music Project Coordinator, Nadia Aftab, shares a quote from a spouse of a person with dementia, “Alzheimer’s is a heartbreaking disease and it is such a relief to be able to penetrate the darkness with the joy that music brings”. There are the special qualities of music that makes it pleasant to listen to. However, there is something personable about familiar sounds that may evoke positive emotions or memories.
On the outside, an individual may be able to see the effects music has on their loved ones by the way they smile or engage with others. But even more subtle changes like a calmer demeanor or less restlessness is still a great step towards psychosocial wellness.
Supporting families across Ontario, The Alzheimer Society of Toronto has been connecting with 80 to 100 people a month through the Music Project. At no charge, participants get a customized playlist of 150 to 200 songs with the help of volunteers. There are popular genres that are frequently requested including jazz, classical and swing. However, Aftab explains, “ I personally also like to always emphasize that we have all kinds of music available, including music from different cultures and even religious soundtracks. I encourage everyone to apply and give the program a try”.
With approximately 25 000 people newly diagnosed with dementia every year (as cited on Alzheimer Society Canada, 2018), the number of individuals who would benefit from this program is also growing.
Note: 1. Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto is located in Toronto, Ontario. (Canada)
2. Discovered through a Kickstarter Campaign.