Think back to your favorite “life” songs—they may not be songs of today, but rather, songs of yesterday. What memories come flooding back? Were you at the beach, dancing at your school graduation, walking down the aisle ready to say, “I do?”
It’s a startling fact that music memory is the last part of the brain lost to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. For those suffering from memory loss and their caregivers, there is hope, and it can come in the form of a tiny clip-on MP3 player filled with the music of a person’s life!
Remember Thru Music (initially iPods For the Elderly) originally provided personalized iPods, and now MP3 Players to those with memory loss since 2016, completely free of charge! Founder Jen McGeehan, Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Island Properties, says, “My hubby, Pat, and I watched a documentary called, Alive Inside. I was spellbound by the amazing and immediate changes that were documented in memory loss patients as they heard the music of their lives! They literally raised their heads, began to sing (and dance, if they could), were engaged, answered questions, shared about their lives, even recognized family members. It was so amazing and life-changing that I wanted to support the program.”
Jen shares that in researching the program, offered through the non-profit Music and Memory, she discovered it was not available in the State of Hawaii. So, with the support of Music and Memory, she started it herself.
Alive Inside took three years to make, finally providing proof that often, the music of one’s life brings the hearer out of their fog, enabling them to remember who they are, what they loved in life, and the recognition of family and friends. Joy, laughter, and communication often return. They are calmer, more able to go out into the world, even for a simple doctor’s appointment.
Remember Thru Music is now a fiscally sponsored program of the North Kohala Community Resource Center (NKCRC), a 501c3 non-profit located in Hawi. NKCRC provides local support, bridges to funding, and education for projects that benefit the community of North Kohala. Since the program’s inception, over 80 customized music players have been distributed to kupuna throughout the Big Island and neighbor islands. In addition to often helping those with Alzheimer’s or dementia reconnect with their old memories, the MP3 Players help recipients manage stress, support positive interactions, and encourages and coordinates muscle movements.
Jen notes, “There are dozens of facilities on our island that can benefit from this program. Because many suffering from memory loss stay home with their families, there is also a need to educate island communities on the life-altering benefits of personalized music for their loved ones. Our partnership with the NKCRC now affords us the opportunity to apply for grants, while also offering corporate and personal donors a tax deduction.”
“Initially, the providing of personalized music was funded entirely through the Annual Christian Women’s Gathering, another event I founded and co-lead.,” Jen shares. “When I first became a Realtor® I worked for Clark Realty, LLC. The first grant received under the umbrella of the NKCRC was from the 2019 Clark Realty Foundation. It was a game-changer for us from a financial and recognition perspective!” Remember thru Music has also been the recipient of a group donation from the Waimea/Kohala 100 Women Who Care, and most recently received a generous grant from Friends of Hawaii Charities. This funding enables us to offer the program completely free.”
The program follows up with recipients to see how the music is helping them. A recent recipient’s wife shared, “My husband received an MP3 player. His eyes and brain were unable to track the TV. When he listened to his personal music list, he seemed happier and it calmed him down. At times, I could hear him singing along quietly with his special songs. I think it helped make the last part of his life better.”
“This is exactly the kind of report we strive to hear, and it warms our hearts,” Jen shares. “It takes a team to keep the program going and the MP3 players heading to their recipients. I could never do this on my own, even though this is how it all started!”
When asked what Jen and her team’s current and future goals are for the Remember Thru Music program, she says, “I have always had a heart for the elderly. For three years I read weekly to seniors who lived at our community hospital in Big Bear, California. I want to see our kupuna community safe and happy in their twilight years. Memory loss is a thief of those sweet years. My goal, and the goal of my team, is to provide a personalized MP3 Player for every kupuna suffering from memory loss on our island and statewide! And by helping these precious kupuna, we are also helping those who assist them!”
For further information on the Remember Thru Music program, to request an MP3 player for a family member, or to make a tax-deductible donation, please contact Jen McGeehan at 808.747.2365, email her at RememberThruMusic@gmail.com or visit www.rememberthrumusic.org.