Saint Joseph’s University entertainment marketing students are helping the elderly get their groove, and hopefully their memories, back at the same time.
The students recently partnered with a nonprofit organization, Music and Memory, to raise awareness, fundraise and collect iPod donations for the organization.
The group brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm through digital music technology, vastly improving their quality of life.
Music and Memory is funded by The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation as a philanthropic startup based on the Rubins’ experiences using music with their parents.
The ability to reconnect memories in the brain is backed by the work of preeminent researchers such as Oliver Sacks. The results have been continuously applauded by families, new researchers and nursing home staff.
As an added bonus to their neurological improvement, project staffers found that elderly patients became more sociable with each other, like teenagers sharing their favorite music.
The elderly themselves reported a lift in mood and richer daily experience at having something precious from their past returned to them.
“Researchers have learned that music helps those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories,” said Dan Cohen, founder of Music and Memory.
In April, a documentary about the organization’s work screened a video clip of Henry, one of the residents reawakened by music. This video went viral with more than seven million views.
“The resulting outpouring of interest and support for our work gives us great hope that our vision of personalized music as a gold standard of elder care will be realized,” Cohen said.
Janée Burkhalter, Saint Joseph’s assistant professor of marketing, learned about Music and Memory via Twitter.
Burkhalter approached Cohen about the idea of having her entertainment marketing students contribute to the effort.
“When you watch Henry’s video, you remember that our lives have soundtracks — the songs danced to at prom, hymns sung at Sunday service or lullabies sung to children,” he said. “It’s really been incredible to see how enthusiastic the students have been throughout the semester to work with this organization.”
This fall, students enrolled in Burkhalter’s entertainment marketing course first tackled the project by developing a marketing plan for Music and Memory.
The second major event was a raffle during the SJU–Villanova basketball game, which garnered numerous donations. The students’ efforts for the semester culminated last month with the Rock to Remember concert hosted in partnership with the University’s record label, 1851 Records and radio station, Radio 1851.
For the undergraduates, bringing music to the elderly has been a way to link, or harmonize, the gap between the generations.
“Music, regardless of genre, carries a special meaning for everybody,” said Jen Costabile, one of the students involved with the project. “As a class, we often wondered what songs we will be listening to when we are 75 years old that would take us back to our youth.”
For more information about Music and Memory, visit www.musicandmemory.org.