Art of Aging: LIFE Center uses music to help make connections

A local senior center is using a unique program to reach people whose minds aren't what they used to be.

The music therapy program at NewCourtland's new Allegheny LIFE Center in North Philadelphia is open to all seniors, but it has proved especially helpful to those suffering from Alzheimer's or dementia.

Mia Dempsey-Stahl, Center Director at Allegheny LIFE Center, explains, "For participants that we have that maybe don't speak much to us or communicate in other ways, to be able to see them and hear them singing a gospel tune, it's really absolutely amazing."

LIFE stands for Living Independently For Elders, and the LIFE Center's music program helps those who can no longer remember connect to their past, and creates a sense of community for all.

Genevieve Lane of Germantown tells us, "If you feel tired, it lifts you up. It's very inspiring and I just love music anyway, so it does a lot for me."

And Eleanor Murille of Germantown says, "There's a feeling that I have inside that's just like 'Wooo.' like an explosion, you know it's like, it just feels good."

The LIFE Center offers a number of assistance programs, including free lunches and physical therapy. But administrators say it's the music program that brings the seniors joy, confidence and engagement.

Music therapist Jerry O'Leary explains, "The music can calm them, and can relax them. It can make them feel secure, and it can open their memory banks.

O'Leary says, "It's just amazing to see people come together in a group, share something which is really enjoyable, and really feel good about themselves. Basically, you're restoring, improving, and maintaining their quality of life."

You can call the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging helpline at 215-765-9040 to find a LIFE Center near you.
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