MusicMendsMinds organization seeks to ‘restore the rhythm of life’ by bringing together seniors and students in musical therapy
by Benjamin Nguyen
Proving that music truly can be one of life’s greatest gifts, the new intergenerational music therapy project MusicMendsMinds is dedicated to “restoring the rhythm of life” for individuals in West Los Angeles who are affected by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or cognitive dementias.
Carol and Irwin Rosenstein founded the organization after their own success story with music and social support. Irwin, a former real estate lawyer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2006. Until recently, the Rosenstein’s felt their lives slipping away while dealing with the adversities from Parkinson’s. “There were some days, many, when I just didn’t have enough to make life worthwhile,” Irwin said.
Hope and life came back into their home after Irwin’s passion for music was reignited by participating in TimeOut @UCLA, an intergenerational student-run respite care program that connects students and seniors. Irwin’s memory, energy, and outlook on life improved dramatically, not only from playing the piano, but from mentoring the students — his new purpose in life.
“Senior musicians can be empowered as they share their wealth of knowledge from music and life experiences with the students,” says Carol Rosenstein. “Likewise, performing in bands allows them to dust off their instruments and get back into the rhythm of life with a newfound sense of confidence, dignity, and self-worth.”
Intergenerational support has been widely researched in social gerontology to help prevent isolation and stimulate cognitive functioning, keeping seniors integrated in society and engaged in social life to help prevent the progression of dementia. Carol noticed Irwin’s dramatic change and consulted with their neurologist, who explained that music may help stimulate increases in dopamine secretion from the brain for more sustained levels of energy and happiness.
According to the American Psychological Association, music is a powerful medicine because it has multiple facets of healing through the mind and body. It can also help alleviate the perception of pain and stress because it is associated with relaxation through lower cortisol hormone levels. The APA explains that music may ease the symptoms of Parkinson’s because it has the potential to improve movement coordination through the healing power of vibroacoustics (the process of hearing sound vibrations through the body).
For these reasons, the Rosensteins wished to combine the powers of intergenerational support and music therapy. They founded MusicMendsMinds, a 501(c)3 nonprofit public charity, in partnership with the UCLA Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Program. The organization has created its first band, The 5th Dementia, and rehearsals take place at Windward School and the Brentwood Presbyterian Church on Mondays and Wednesdays, respectively.
If you are, or someone you know is, a musical senior with early cognitive decline and/or Parkinson’s and interested in joining the band or participating in the organization, visit www.musicmendsminds.org.
The 5th Dementia’s first Holiday Musical with high school music students, guest performers, and church choir will take place Friday, Dec. 19, 1:30 p.m. at the Brentwood Presbyterian Church, 12000 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles 90049. All are welcome to attend.