As smartphones become the norm, many people may find they have an old iPod (or five) lying around their homes.This year, the nonprofit organization Music & Memory is urging people to clean out their drawers and donate old iPods to a good cause: Bringing the joy of music to elderly people in nursing homes.
Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory, first came up with the idea for his nonprofit back in 2006.
“I was listening to a journalist on the radio talking about how iPods are ubiquitous, and I said, ‘If I’m ever in a nursing home, would I be able to have my favorite 60s music?’” Cohen told FoxNews.com. “I did a search of iPods and nursing homes, and even though there are 16,000 (nursing homes) in the United States, I couldn’t find one using iPods.”
Some research has suggested that music can help relieve stress and reduce agitation among the elderly and even Alzheimer’s patients. With this knowledge in mind, Cohen reached out to some nursing homes in his home state of New York to see if he could come in and make customized playlists for seniors in the facility.
“I brought my laptop, iPods, and it was an instant hit. For people to have their own personal jukebox in the palm of their hand, that was a huge hit,” Cohen said.
With funding from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation, Cohen was able to expand his idea into a full-fledged program in 2008. He purchased 200 iPods, which he then distributed to four nursing homes throughout the New York area.
While there were some initial worries that the iPods could prove isolating, nursing home employees soon noticed that the devices were having a profound effect on some of the seniors in their facilities.
“Turns out from the professional staff across four nursing homes, there wasn’t one story of people being more isolated, but people being more social, (saying things like) ‘You gotta hear this music, this reminds me of how I met my husband,’ or, ‘Do you remember the Andrews sisters?’” Cohen said. “People, instead of sitting quiet with their head down all day, they were engaged and awakened.”
Today, Music & Memory has expanded its program to 341 nursing homes in 35 states and eight countries – and it’s still growing. However, the nonprofit relies heavily on donations in order to keep its initiative thriving.
“Donations are critical. The government does not reimburse nursing homes for iPods, so (the nursing homes) won’t do it,” Cohen said. “So every time we have a new non-profit nursing home, we give them a startup kit of mostly donated iPods, and we’ll mix in iPod shuffles bought from donations.”
In some cases, Cohen trains employees to implement his program in participating nursing homes, but he also offers free online certification programs as well. His goal? To make the program as easy as possible for the seniors.
“Many of these people have no relation to technology…My thing is, ‘What music do you like? Here it is. We’ll take care of the rest,’” Cohen said. “Whatever they need, the staff can help. Putting the headphones on, turning on the music – we want it to be easy.”
Cohen said his organization will accept donations of both new and used devices, iTunes gift cards, iPods, iTouches or old iPhones. The only criteria is that the equipment must still be working.
And if you’ve lost the charger, it’s not a problem. Just send it anyway, said Cohen.
“I can’t get too many. I could place literally 10,000 iPods today,” Cohen said. “..For an individual who gets their music and gets benefits from this, the feedback I get is their life is transformed – not only for the moment but most likely for the rest of their life.”