The MEM Program for Aged Care Residents

In May 2017, Pambula-Merimbula Lions member Addie Perrett initiated and launched the Music Evokes Memory (MEM) program, into six Aged Care Centres in the Bega Valley.

MEM commenced as a community project where iPods with pre-loaded music were lent to residents with dementia in Aged Care Centres. The pre-loaded music was selected based on its meaningfulness for each individual participant and sometimes in their own native language. The program was launched at Imlay House with some residents experiencing songs and music from an iPod for the first time. The smiles on their faces told it all!

Music is one of the best-known ways to reach people at all stages of dementia. Why does listening and singing to music have such a positive impact?

  1. Music awakens emotions that bring memories.
  2. Singing and listening to music sparks activity on both sides of the brain.
  3. It helps manage stress and helps the listener feel more positive. It enhances their mood which also helps the carer of the patient.
  4. Music aptitude and appreciation are two of the last remaining cognitive abilities of people living with dementia.

The connection with memories of old songs led renowned neurologist Oliver Sacks to state:
“Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion, and emotion can bring with it memory… it brings back the feeling of life when nothing else can.” (Better Hearing Australia).

In April 2021, the MEM program was extended through a grant to Pambula-Merimbula Lions from the Bega Valley Shire Council to purchase ukuleles for the residents to play. This was the beginning of the “Ukulele and sing-along” program, which happens monthly in two Aged Care Centres in the Bega Valley with the assistance of volunteers. The residents look forward to the monthly singing while strumming sessions.