Olive is the first person to participate in the Music and Memory program at Artman.
Olive is the first person to participate in the Music and Memory program at Artman.

“Where words fail, music speaks.” -Hans Christian Andersen

A typical day for Olive includes a lot of sleep and little, if any, engagement with others. Olive, 103 years old and in the advanced stages of dementia, is a resident at Artman, Liberty’s senior living community in Ambler, Montgomery County. Up to now, staff has had little success engaging with Olive. That changed on a Tuesday in August.


Katelyn McKinley, Director of Community Life at Artman, put a set of headphones on Olive, plugged it into an iPod and turned on Olive’s favorite gospel music. It was like magic.

“She sang the whole time! It was amazing,” Katelyn says.

(see video below!)

More than five million Americans are living with Dementia. The disease causes a progressive decline in a person’s memory and thinking skills. In the final stage of dementia, individuals lose the ability to respond to their environment, to carry on a conversation and, eventually, to control movement. Although there is no cure for dementia, there is hope for a richer quality of life, thanks to a program called Music and Memory. Residents at two of Liberty’s senior living communities, suffering from dementia and other debilitating conditions, now have the opportunity to participate in this revolutionary therapy.

Music and Memory is a non-profit organization that works with staff at elder care facilities, from aides to music therapists and nurses, along with family members, to effectively use music on an iPod to create a powerful personalized therapy program. Artman and The Hearth at Drexel are now certified in the Music and Memory program and staff are starting to implement it as a form of therapy to engage residents whose physical and mental conditions prevent them from interacting with others.

“Music is the one thing that connects with so many people,” Katelyn says. “It’s also neat to bring technology into their (residents’) world.”

Katelyn learned about the Music and Memory program by watching a viral video on YouTube of a man named Henry, who suffered from dementia for a decade and barely said a word to anyone—until Music & Memory set up an iPod program at his nursing home. She was extremely moved by the video and knew that it would be beneficial to many residents at Liberty’s senior communities.

“We want our programs to be therapeutic, rather than just activities-based, and music is a good way for us to be able to connect with some of our residents,” she explained.

Why does music work? According to researchers, the brain ties music to memories and personalized therapeutic music enables the listener to reconnect, regain social skills and live a fuller life. The Music and Memory program is known to give residents happier, more social lives, deepened relationships with family members, staff and other residents, presents a calmer, social environment.

As for Olive, her first experience spoke for itself. When asked what she thought about the music – she told Katelyn – “It’s beautiful!”

If you are interested in volunteering at Artman, in Ambler, or The Hearth at Drexel, in Bala Cynwyd, to help load music onto residents’ iPods – or if you would like to donate a new or gently used iPod to the program, please contact Katelyn McKinley at 215.643.6335 Ext 144 or [email protected]

Click here for more information about living at Artman.

Click here for more information about living at The Hearth at Drexel.

About Liberty Lutheran

Incorporated in 2001 and headquartered in Ambler, Pa., Liberty Lutheran, with locations across Pennsylvania and combined service history of 300 years, faithfully provides vital resources to more than 61,000 individuals and families facing life-changing situations. These individualized services include independent and personal care, assisted living, skilled nursing, rehabilitation, hospice care, in-home supports, wellness services, children and family services, integration services for immigrants and political refugees and disaster response. Liberty Lutheran’s team of dedicated employees serves individuals and families through their family of services in Pennsylvania, including Artman, Paul’s Run Retirement Community, Liberty at Home, Liberty Hospice, Lutheran Children and Family Services, Lutheran Congregational Services, The Hearth at Drexel (formerly Mary J. Drexel,) and The Village at Penn State. www.libertylutheran.org


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