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Seniors recover memories through the power of music | News

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Seniors recover memories through the power of music
Seniors recover memories through the power of music

ATLANTA -- At A.G. Rhodes Health & Rehab at Wesley Woods, in Rosemary Bauer's room, it's time for therapy.

"Is it okay if I put the headphones on?" music therapist John Abel asks the 99-year-old woman.

Bauer is not learning new skills. She's recovering old memories. She smiles as she recognizes a line in the song.

"Does he sound like your husband did?" Abel asks.

Bauer, a retired piano teacher says, "Music is part of your soul."

Abel, who uses the Music and Memory program with many A.G. Rhodes residents, says he's seen the music do amazing things, from improving movement, to stimulating memory.

"Music memories last longer than other memories," he says.

For some, music is all that remains.

"You feel okay? You look really pretty today," Linda Mabry tells her mother.

Dementia has taken Mabry's mother from her, but the music brings her back, in fleeting, achingly poignant moments. Today, she hums along with a song.

"She looks right at me, looks into my eyes and lets me know that she knows me, and that just makes it awesome," Mabry says after her mother listens to music.

But when dozens of residents get together for group music therapy, the transformation is greatest. They sing the songs of their youth, move their arms and legs -- dancing even if it means using a walker. Collectively, they are youngsters, despite bodies that struggle to follow the feelings.

"They might not be thinking about the things going on in their life right now, but they're thinking times in the past bringing back good memories," Abel says.

When most of our experiences are behind us, it is the gift of looking back, remembering how life was, connecting us to how life can still feel, as long as we have the music.

Learn how you can help bring the gift of music to Georgia seniors.

This story moved Vinnie Politan to tears when it first aired on Atlanta Alive. Vinnie said it brought back memories of his father and his love for music.