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Music program helps military veterans with Alzheimer's
By Gerry Weiss
Erie Times-News - 5/5/2017
When the Pennsylvania Soldiers' & Sailors' Home in Erie began a new music program in February 2016, attempting to help military veterans with Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, the initiative saw only a handful of residents.
A little more than a year later, the Music & Memory program has grown to now having more than 20 residents participating, and includes student volunteers from Mercyhurst University and Gannon University.
"It's a population that still yearns for that social engagement and conversation, but it's extremely difficult given the condition of the disease," said Ken Vybiral, the volunteer resource coordinator at the home. "We want to light a spark. We want the family members of these residents to finally see a response from someone they love and had lost."
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The program runs each weekday afternoon at the home, with relatives often joining the sessions.
The volunteers play songs of old for the residents in an effort to increase their awareness and mental faculties, Vybiral said. There are seven student volunteers that assist in the program weekly, including Mercyhurst senior Bridget Holvey, an intern directing the program.
"You can visibly see some of the residents' moods instantly change once they begin listening to playlists of some of their favorite songs and artists," Holvey said.
A playlist of songs that were influential or impactful in their formative years, or at any other point in their lives, is created for each resident in the program, Vybiral said.
"Like their wedding song, or music they heard at their prom or high school graduation," he added.
Gerry Weiss can be reached at 870-1884 or by email. Follow him on twitter at twitter.com/ETNweiss.
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