The Utah Commission on Aging is approaching memory challenges through an unconventional method: personalized playlists.

Music and Memory is an initiative following research that demonstrates how music can help people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s revisit their memories. The program plans to bring a therapeutic approach into community members’ homes instead of a nursing facility. They’ve asked students across campus to donate iPods, iTunes gift cards and money. Anne Palmer, executive director of the commission, said people with dementia “have seen miraculous results by using personalized music.”

Alzheimers is an irreversible brain disorder that destroys a person’s ability to reason, remember and perform simple tasks.

“It’s painful for the families who care for their loved ones to be erased from their memory,” said Gina Uhlstein-Gonzalez, graduate research assistant at the commission.

Another aspect that impacts the families is the cost of care which Uhlstein-Gonzalez said can be “staggering.”

Utah’s State Plan for Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementia said families are typically the primary caregivers and provide 80 percent of total care. Additionally, the caregivers across the state collectively incur $1.8 billion per year.

Palmer said the commission hopes to raise $5,000 from the drive.

“As the population ages, it becomes increasingly important to spend the time and money on researching and implementing effective strategies,” Uhlstein-Gonzalez said.

Palmer urges students to watch the documentary “Alive Inside,” an award winner at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival. The film documents the reawakening of a man, Henry, after he was given an iPod containing music by his favorite jazz musician — Cab Calloway.

“If students have a chance to see this, I know they will want to identify, ‘What’s on my playlist?’” Palmer said.

The program allows the U community to come together to better the lives of others and the future care of the population.

The iPods will be distributed to various community partners who work with people with Alzheimers. Each person will receive their own iPod with a customized playlist.

Students interested in getting involved can donate an old iPod at these dropbox locations across campus: College of Nursing (Student Services), College of Pharmacy (Student Services), College of Social Work, College of Architecture and Planning (Main Office), College of Business (Spencer Fox Eccles Building), The Bennion Center, The R. Olpin Union (Student Services Desk). Students can also volunteer to compile a playlist.

“Today’s students are in the unique position of owning and knowing how to use the latest technology,” Uhlstein-Gonzalez said. “We have the ability to reach an individual and touch the lives of their families in an immeasurably appreciated way.”

For more information on Music & Memory and to watch Henry’s story, go to


Katie Buda
Katie is the assistant news editor of The Daily Utah Chronicle. Before that, she covered business and student start-ups. She is pursuing a degree in Finance with honors. Katie is a native of the Detroit area and is currently an intern at Automotive News.


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