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Giving the gift of memories

Nurses raising money for ipod driveRemember that old iPod Shuffle at the bottom of your desk drawer? The one with “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson on it?

The Utah Music & Memory Coalition needs it.

University of Utah College of Nursing graduate students Nancy McGee and Nancy Joyce have organized an iPod drive for the month of March. Donation boxes have been placed strategically around campus – in the Union building and colleges of business, architecture, social work and nursing, among others – for easy drop off of gently used and new iPods and iTunes cards. All devices and cards collected will benefit the Music & Memory Coalition.

Joyce and McGee, who both are pursuing master’s degrees in gerontology, were inspired by their time working with older Utahns and family members. Joyce worked as a translator in Berlin for 15 years before returning to Utah. She runs the University Hospital Elder Life delirium prevention program. After a long career as a human resources consultant, McGee has worked as a service coordinator in affordable senior housing and taught fall prevention and about osteoarthritis.

With that experience working with the elderly, they say the iPod drive is a “no-brainer.”

“It is so inspiring to see the healing power of music in action,” Joyce says. “My 87-year-old mother-in-law has dementia, and her favorite pastime is listening to her favorite singers on her iPhone.”

Utah’s Music & Memory coalition was formed two years ago. Since then, the service agencies involved have provided iPods to 1,100 clients across the state. Some Music & Memory clients have been referred to the university’s Center for Alzheimer’s Care, Imaging and Research (CACIR) for the “Alive Inside” brain imaging study.

McGee believes U. students are particularly attuned to the needs of Utah’s aging population. “All disciplines – nursing, social work, pharmacy, business and architecture – are doing important work to advance aging services, create new ways to help aging adults and to advance the well-being of this population,” she says.

Lady listening to ipodGently used or new devices are helpful. But iTunes cards provide the most flexibility for providers because they can be used to purchase new iPods or add to the coalition’s music library, McGee and Joyce say.

Over three years, Jewish Family Services has served more than 200 clients with personalized playlists and equipment.

“This is caregiver respite. It allows people to be comfortable and safe – just listening and chilling, while their caregiver takes a shower or performs other tasks,” says Ellie Goldberg, Music & Memory coordinator and counselor for Jewish Family Services.

Jewish Family Services focuses on providing care at home for patients diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, but Music & Memory also can help those with serious depression and even schizophrenia, Goldberg says. Other service providers go into hospice centers and nursing homes to find Music & Memory clients.

Each playlist includes 150 to 300 songs. Goldberg’s music library has hundreds of thousands of songs – much of it representing the Top 40 and old country favorites of people born in the 1920s.

“I have enough Perry Como to choke a horse,” she says. “And I’ve never had anyone say no to Johnny Cash.

“And I really like Dolly Parton,” Goldberg adds. “I never thought that would happen.”

The iPod drive is a joint project of Sigma Phi Omega Gerontology Honor Society and the College of Social Work. It will wrap up April 4 with Careers in Aging Week 2016.

For more information: Utah Music & Memory Service Project.