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Donating Old iPods Can Help People With Alzheimer's Remember Their Past

We’ve heard of the healing power of music, but rarely do we get to see it in action.

In 2006, Dan Cohen, a social worker in New York, came up with the idea to use old iPods to create customized playlists for senior citizens living with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Cohen believed that hearing music from their past would allow these people to tap into older memories that might otherwise be lost to them. According to The Alzheimer’s Association of America, research suggests that music can tap deep into the brain’s stored memories as a person’s ability to engage with music remains intact even in the later stages of the disease. This allows even some of America’s 5 million Alzheimer’s patients to feel and act like themselves again for a short amount of time.

In 2010, Cohen created “Music & Memory,” a nonprofit that provides music therapy to seniors and helps caregivers create personalized playlists for loved ones and patients with Alzheimer’s. The viability of the organization was demonstrated in 2011 when a video (below) of a man named Henry, who has Alzheimer’s, went viral online. Henry, who was typically unresponsive, was given an iPod loaded with some of his favorite songs from his youth. Not only did hearing the melodies again make his face light up, it gave him a brief period of lucidity where he was able to converse with an interviewer and remember some fond moments from his past.

In the video below, ABC News introduces us to an 82-year-old Alzheimer’s patient named Bill Paese, who sang in a barbershop quartet when he was younger. When he hears that music today, his wife says she’s able to get a glimpse of the man she married.

“He’s in there, and sometimes we get to see him,” she told the station.

Cohen is hoping to expand Music & Memory’s collection of about 10,000 donated iPods to one million.

Anyone who hopes to donate their iPods to Music & Memory can do so here.

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