When the Apple company developed its famous iPod music player in 2001, the target market was teenagers. Apple engineers and advertisers might be surprised to see how popular it’s become at the Cross Keys Village in New Oxford where most senior citizen users reside in the Memory Care Unit.

The demand for iPods at The Brethren Home Community has become so great that last Thursday was set aside as a time for donating the small handheld devices, chargers, speakers or headphones and unused iTunes gift cards.

Memory Care Coach Kimberly Korge gives all the credit for developing the “Music & Memory” program to New Oxford High School junior Sam Jarvis, who began volunteering at Cross Keys in 2015.

“He had a vision, and the program wouldn’t be here without Sam,” Korge said.

Jarvis said as seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia lose mental capacity, “music still taps deep into memory that’s lost with the disease.”

A growing number of Cross Keys’ “Villagers” are soothed by music that is selected for each individual by Jarvis and others who ask family members about a resident’s favorite songs and types of music.

Korge commented on the calming effect of music upon Memory Care residents who experience anxiety and sometimes get highly agitated.

“Instead of reaching for a pill, we reach for an iPod,” she said.

She spoke of one Villager with tendencies to become combative with staff. The resident’s behavior “drastically changed” after being provided an iPod with a generous playlist of Johnny Cash music.

The program began a couple of years ago with five devices doled out to a handful of residents. On Thursday the capacity had grown to 73 as a half-dozen iPods and accompanying equipment were donated by mid-afternoon.

Villager Lee Ellsworth dropped by the Memory Care office to hand over an iPod and write a check for a generous donation. Expressing gratitude to Jarvis and the unit’s staff for the program’s impact upon fellow residents, he said, “This is something that I’ve seen work wonders upstairs.”

Director of Memory Care Jennifer Holcomb joined Korge in paying tribute to Jarvis for spearheading the Music & Memory effort. Holcomb also celebrated Cross Keys’ recent notification of a $5,000 grant from the Robert C. Hoffman Charitable Trust to expand the program beyond The Brethren Home campus.

Together with donations from Cross Keys staff and others, the grant will enable the home to hire Jarvis on a part-time basis for community outreach. Jarvis said he hopes to help iPod-equipped seniors living in their own homes to benefit from the Music & Memory program.

Korge and Holcomb said other memory care providers throughout Pennsylvania are expected to adopt the Music & Memory approach. The Pennsylvania Department of Aging recently received a federal grant to assist providers in implementing the innovative program, whose impact at Cross Keys, according to Korge, “helps people come alive and has moved me to tears.”

Noting that November is national Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, the two professional care providers expect demand for their services will expand greatly in the future. Forecasts predict the current 5.7 million Alzheimer’s-sufferers in the United States will grow to over 14 million by 2050.

For more information on Music & Memory or to make iPod or cash donations to the program, contact Kimberly Korge by calling 717-624-5272 or emailing her at k.korge@crosskeysvillage.org.

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