Music and memory: The value of iPods in nursing homes

Ken BellSkilled Nursing1 Comment

Yes, time travel is possible.

In fact, it happens to me every time I hear a favorite song from my high school years. With just a few opening notes of The B-52’s “Rock Lobster” or David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, I’m instantly transported back to a time when Miami Vice, Wayfarer sunglasses and John Hughes films were the ultimate in cool.

Though I’m not quite ready for a nursing home, I hope that when I am, music will still hold its power to recreate those “totally awesome” moments of my youth. The emotional memories I formed with an 80’s soundtrack playing in the background will likely stick with me a long time.

My brain is not unique. Neurologists say music has a unique way of creating a deep-rooted connection with one’s memories. As more research emerges, nursing homes are starting to understand the value of music to their residents — and so are those who must choose a nursing home for themselves or a loved one.

Accordingly, a new research report from long-term care software review company, Software Advice, reveals a strong preference for nursing homes that integrate music into their residents’ lives using iPods. Researchers interviewed long-term care experts and surveyed 1,557 people who were anticipating the need to choose a nursing home.

The key findings…

83% would favor a nursing home with iPod integration

The vast majority (83%) of respondents said they would choose a nursing home that offers residents iPods with individualized playlists over a similar nursing home that does not.

“[Our society is] going through a transition in our philosophy [when it comes to] quality of care,” says Music & Memory researcher Dr. Jung Kwak. “I think nursing homes are moving away from the ‘medical’ model, where people only get basic care. They are trying to become more ‘person-centered,’ where mental engagement is hugely important.”

50% would move or commute for a nursing home that uses iPods

Half (a combined 50%) of survey respondents would be willing to move or commute from their home city to a nursing home that incorporates iPods in resident care. More than one-quarter (27%) would search for one within their county; 15% would look within their state and 8% would expand their search out of state.

“This is a very inexpensive way to take advantage of technology that pays off for everybody,” says Dan Cohen, Music & Memory executive director. “It pays off for the residents…it pays off for the nursing homes in terms of attracting people.”

Most would pay more for a facility with iPod integration

More than half of respondents said they would pay more money for a nursing home offering iPod use versus one that didn’t, with 19% willing to spend “significantly more.”

The researchers suggest that nursing homes that offer iPods to residents could see a direct return on their investment by attracting higher-paying residents, including the next generation of nursing-home residents who are more savvy about using current technology.

What matters: Quality of care, quality of life

The study results are interesting but not very surprising (at least to me).

Why are people willing to travel long distances and even pay more for a long-term care facility that integrates music and iPods? Because the resident’s experience is paramount. Yes, music is important, but it’s only an avenue to the real goal: quality of care and quality of life. A nursing home must feel like home.

As my generation continues to age, it seems clear that the long-term care industry needs to find new ways to improve residents’ quality of life, which includes becoming more tech-savvy in order to attract and properly care for residents.

The ones that do will succeed “Time After Time”. The ones that don’t will just be “Out of Touch”.

One Comment on “Music and memory: The value of iPods in nursing homes”

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