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North Hempstead studies music's effect on elderly

The Town of North Hempstead has launched a pilot program to see whether listening to personalized playlists on iPods will help elderly residents living at home.

The town’s department of services for the aging has accepted $90 in used iPods and iTunes gift cards from Mineola-based Music and Memory, a nonprofit that aims to improve residents’ quality of life through iPods.

Department commissioner Evelyn Roth said the program was for residents 60 and older who have limited mobility or who are “a little bit depressed” or were showing beginning signs of Alzheimer’s. The idea is to see “whether listening for 30 minutes a day to the music they love — from their own generation — will have an impact on their mood and their outlook on life,” Roth said.

The participants will answer questions about their emotional well-being before being given the iPods and music, and they will be checked again after a month of listening for at least half an hour a day, she said. “Hopefully, we’re going to see a change in mood, outlook and perception of quality of life,” Roth said.

Popular requests so far include big band music, show tunes, classical music, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand, she said.

Music & Memory, which began with programs in nursing homes, has found that personalized music can stimulate memories — encouraging residents who otherwise did not speak or move to begin to talk, sing or dance.

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