“What’s Your Favorite Song?”

March 30th – Westtown’s first visit

The “resident selection” work group has been meeting weekly to choose our first group of resident participants and to develop care plans in our electronic health record so that we can track usage and response.  We have enlisted the support of students from the Westtown School, and they attended their first training early in March.  They returned on 3/30/16 to begin interviewing residents and families regarding musical preferences and to help us continue to download music and create playlists.  Here’s our team:

Westtown School Service Network Program

Becca, Alyssa, Elena, Poohkao, Lily, Dylan, Ian, and Mitch

To date, we have purchased iPod Shuffles, headphones, headphone splitters, a laptop dedicated to the project, small speakers to be used for those residents who do not tolerate headphones, AC adapters, syncing cables and badge holders/lanyards to secure the iPods for some residents, as well as the Music & Memory training.

Charging Stations

Storage/charging stations are located on each neighborhood so that the iPods are available for resident use 24 hours per day.

Training for staff will take place during the week of April 4th as we provide direct care staff and families with specific instructions on the use of the iPods and on the documentation that will be required before, during and after use.  We will also refine our methods of communication with residents, staff and families so that communication about playlists and headphones and other potential issues is seamless.


Our Recreation Lead, Bernie Riley, helping one of the students find Greek music for a resident.

During the school year, we will have volunteers assist with the Music & Memory project weekly, and it is our hope that this will become a permanent volunteer assignment for Westtown students.  Our “reconnection” with Westtown as a part of the Music and Memory project is one of the many exciting elements of the program because it has been several years since we had regular visits from Westtown students.


January 14th – We are certified!

Music & Memory Certified logo

Our first task was to undergo the necessary training to become a Music & Memory Certified community.  This training, led by the founder of Music & Memory, Dan Cohen, took place on January 12, 13, and 14th, 2016.  Our training covered all aspects of the program including resident selection, applicable licensing laws, equipment, staff engagement, family involvement, and resources to use during implementation.  All members of the committee took part in the training, and Barclay Friends is now a Music & Memory Certified Organization and is listed on the Music & Memory website as such.

Throughout January and February, our group has continued to meet weekly to plan our implementation.  We diverged into two work groups:  one focused on training and one focused on resident selection.  The training group watched the documentary Alive Inside and developed an in-service to be used with staff and families.  Here’s the official trailer:

We conducted nine separate sessions of our kickoff training on March 9, 10 and 12th.  All of our sessions included staff and family members but our Saturday session drew the most family members.  Staff and families were shown two poignant clips of the documentary Alive Inside and received information about how we are implementing the program here.  Prior to the training, we had developed a “Music Preferences Worksheet” to use when creating playlists for individual residents.  Some of the families who attended the training have already completed those worksheets, and we have already begun downloading music, both from iTunes and from the Barclay Friends CD collection.


“What’s your favorite song?”

MUSIC & MEMORY℠ is a non-profit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of older adults through digital music technology, vastly improving quality of life.

Music & Memory mission and vision

Executive Director Dan Cohen founded Music & Memory with a simple idea: Someday, if he ended up in a nursing home, he wanted to be able to listen to his favorite ‘60s music.  With funding from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation in 2008, Dan brought 200 iPods to residents of four New York long-term care facilities and tested the program on a larger scale. Successful outcomes spurred the creation of Music & Memory as a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2010.

Dementia impacts the quality of life of older adults, including our residents, by robbing them of opportunities for socialization and engagement with the world around them.  Additionally, dementia sometimes creates anxiety, agitation and frustration among older adults and some individuals with these symptoms are prescribed powerful antipsychotic medications, complete with FDA black box warnings.

Music & Memory, currently used in hundreds of communities throughout the United States and Canada, helps adults with dementia regain the ability to smile, laugh, sing and engage with others by providing them with iPods loaded with personalized playlists.  Musical memory is tied to emotion, and these memories often remain, even when dementia takes so many other things away.  As a result, this program helps participants connect to the past and begin to enjoy life again.

Barclay Friends has received two $5,000 grants – one from Kendal Charitable Funds and one from the Jeanes Fund – to bring the Music & Memory program to our residents.  Our group, an interdisciplinary team including representatives from Nursing, Social Services, Recreation, Adminitration, Admissions/Marketing, and the Tapestry memory support program, began meeting weekly late in December of 2015.  Our goals are:

  • To provide iPod shuffles with personalized playlists to program participants, and to train staff and family members how and when to use them
  • To decrease episodes of agitation and/or anxiety among program participants
  • To reduce the use of psychotropic drugs for 25% of our residents on the program
  • And finally, to increase the number of times our residents on the program engage with the world around them, i.e. to increase the number of times they make eye contact, smile, laugh, sing and engage in conversation with others

We do know that agitation interferes with the provision of care, that it can increase falls and accidents and that it is a major source of stress for staff and families.  Residents with cognitive impairments often have a lowered stress threshold but when individualized music is introduced, and the term “individualized” is extremely important, that music evokes an emotional response tied to personal and positive memories.  Reliving positive memories also awakens the spirit; those are the connections we want to make.