Music therapy helps seniors remember

Penny and Jim
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If you have seen a loved one with dementia and Alzheimer's slip away, you understand waiting for the moments where they remember. Caregivers tell us that if you play music, you might just get that glimpse and your loved one can get boost, too.

Jim Washington and Penny Cripe are a couple. They started dating 12 years ago. After seven years, he says her mind started to slip.

"There are times that she is gone, and I know it," Jim said. Penny's lapses concern Jim because it takes Penny awhile to focus. Jim has been told a time will come when she might not know him.

But Jim says the blanks fade and Penny can focus when she hears music.

"I like dance music," Penny said.

"When the music comes on, she starts singing and it is just amazing how many songs she remembers," Jim said, to the point that when he forgets a verse, she remembers it.

Jim decided that if music brought Penny joy, the other dementia and Alzheimer's residents at Allisonville Meadows might like his karaoke music too.

Ashley Gill invites musicians for music therapy weekly to Allisonville Meadows, and plays calming music daily.  She said studies in seniors found music activates memories. "They may not remember their grand kids or what their children's names are, but they can remember the words to traditional songs that we all love," she said.

Gill says researchers found melodies can boost mood, recall, and decrease concentration on pain.

Jim sees a foot tapping and "that is magic. I love it,"

Pictures from Penny's life in Anderson reveal a passion for dance, performance and music. Jim wishes he would have known her then, "But it's been a good journey." He is committed to be with Penny "as long as I need to be. She's good people. She's good people."

You can learn more about therapies for seniors at our WTHR/American Senior Communities Health Fair this Saturday at the Community Health Campus on 146th street in Noblesville.  The fair features free health screenings from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.