Can This New Smartphone App Help Seniors with Alzheimer’s?

Although today’s conventional wisdom may say that seniors and smartphones don’t mix — especially seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease — a new mobile app is about to revolutionize the ways in which Alzheimer’s sufferers interact with technology and live their lives. The app is similar to Spotify and other streaming-music applications, but it’s been designed specifically to help Alzheimer’s patients stir memories, spark activity in the brain and improve overall quality of life. The new application was developed by Dr. Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, who in many circles is known as a “rock star” of brain science. It’s called SPARK Memories Radio, and it can help reduce depression and agitation in patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

The Power of Meaningful Music

According to Tanzi, who is also a trained jazz pianist, the emotional response to certain pieces of music shows that Alzheimer’s patients remain connected to certain parts of their brains. In fact, Alzheimer’s does not affect the part of the brain that responds to music, making it a terrific tool.

Music lovers tend to be more emotionally attached to the tunes they enjoyed between the ages of 12 and 25, and these pieces of music become entrenched in the brain over the course of a lifetime. Tanzi suggests that this is because those years often contain major life events that lead to the creation of some of a person’s most cherished and important memories. The music connected with those memories, therefore, is a wonderful way in to the brain.

How the App Works

Tanzi noticed that when he would send CDs to friends with Alzheimer’s patients in their families, he would receive incredible feedback detailing how certain pieces of music would cause patients to “wake up” and tap their toes. Knowing that music memories are unaffected by Alzheimer’s, Tanzi and his team got to work creating the app.

The app chooses songs based on the patient’s date of birth and the answers to some simple questions. Then, it creates a playlist of songs that are most likely to have an impact on the part of the brain that processes music.

SPARK playlists are curated through scientific research, and they are made specifically to match the musical tastes of Alzheimer’s patients from their teens and early twenties. Caregivers and family members can download the app through the Apple or Android store and try it out for free over a seven-day trial. After that, it’s $9.99 per month, which is the same price as Spotify, one of the more popular streaming-music apps.

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More Help With Alzheimer’s Care

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