UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The melody of a favorite song can lift spirits, make you dance and even rekindle forgotten memories. Thanks to a recent donation by Penn State staff members, the powers of music will continue to help improve the lives and memories of State College community members.
On Giving Tuesday (Nov. 29), staff members from the Penn State Office of the Vice Provost for Information Technology (OVPIT) donated 50 iPods to the Wellspring Memory Care Program at Juniper Village at Brookline — a senior living community in State College for those with memory and cognitive disabilities — to be used in their Music and Memory program.
The program provides residents with Alzheimer's and dementia with iPods and other music players containing personalized playlists of favorite songs. Part of a nationwide initiative, the program helps many patients improve recollection and boost quality of life.
“Because music uses every part of the brain, those memories that are hidden deep within the disease can resurface through these feelings of being at home and one with yourself,” said Kaitlin Hoover, connections director at the facility. “This donation will help create harmony for everyone here, both residents and staff.”
Back in October, John Ilie, facilities coordinator for OVPIT and 2016-17 chair of the University Staff Advisory Council, organized the effort to raise money for the 50 iPods to be donated to Juniper Village.
“The Music and Memory program donation is a perfect example of Penn State staff uniting to make a difference in the State College community,” Ilie said. “I hope this opens doors for others at Penn State to extend their reach and make a difference by getting involved. I am lucky to be part of such a supportive and caring community.”
As donations poured in from OVPIT staff members, it wasn’t long before the fundraising goal was doubled, giving the group extra funds to purchase and donate chargers, headphones and cases, as well.
According to Hoover, the donation will help Juniper Village boost an already successful program.
“With the devices we currently have, we’re limited to shorter playlists since they only store 2GB of music,” Hoover said. “But now with the 32GB devices, we could potentially store an entire month’s worth of music.”
Some OVPIT staff members were on hand Tuesday to watch as residents received and tested out their new iPods. Among them was Dana Williams, IT project manager in OVPIT, who said she and her family have seen firsthand how music can change lives. After her grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nine years ago, Williams said she wasn’t able to stay awake much longer than five minutes and was refusing food — even her favorite, ice cream.
Until they started music therapy, this is.
“After a month of music therapy, she was doing so well, she spent an entire day away from her home at a family gathering where she ate normal meals and enjoyed walking around,” Williams said. “Music therapy changed her life. She still has Alzheimer’s, but she is much happier and the time we have with her is more precious.”
For Williams, the iPod donation is an opportunity to give others with memory loss and their families a chance to experience the same joy she has witnessed in her own family.
“I’m confident this iPod donation made during Giving Tuesday will be just as life-changing for Juniper Village residents,” Williams said. “And, just as importantly, this will improve the quality of time spent between residents and loved ones.”