State Memory Care Plan Equips Senior Living Communities with iPods

Some Wisconsin senior living communities are outfitting residents with headphones and an iPod as part of an innovative approach to dementia care, reports the La Crosse Tribune. 

Hillview Health Care Center in La Crosse, Wisc., is certified to participate in a Wisconsin Department of Health Services program geared toward helping senior living community residents with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias.

About 100 senior care centers in the state are certified for the Wisconsin Music and Memory Initiative, says the Tribune, which uses iPods loaded with personalized playlists. The program is expected to expand to another 135 communities in the coming months. 


Those playlists are meant to “rekindle residents’ memories with familiar music, as well as lift their spirits and improve their interaction with family members, other residents and staffers,” the article says.

Through the program, each senior care community gets 15 iPods, although communities can choose to buy more or receive donations of new or used ones. Approximately half of Hillview’s nearly 200 residents have some form of dementia. 

The Star Tribune profiles Hillview resident Dorothy Schwanbeck, an 87-year-old with dementia who is responding well to the music program. Favorite songs on her playlist include tracks from The Sound of Music, Meet Me in St. Louis, and Judy Garland songs. 


“I didn’t think she’d go for it this well,” Ralph Schwanbeck, 90 years old and Dorothy’s husband of 68 years, told the publication. “Anything new she’s a little bit strange with, and this is the first time she’s ever had headphones.” 

Dorothy has been living at Hillview for a year and a half and has made comments about liking different songs that play on her iPod, her family says, despite not normally being very communicative. 

“I’m hoping this will relax her more,” Ralph Schwanbeck told the Tribune. “Sometimes, she can be quite tense.”

Norseland Nursing Home in Westby, another Music and Memory Initiative participant, has also seen benefits, according to recreation therapy director Kim Martinson. 

“It is amazing to see someone’s face light up when they hear their personalized music,” she told the Tribune. “We have seen a decrease in resident behaviors, less wandering, more social interaction and they are more upbeat and happy after listening to their music.”

Read the full story. 

Written by Alyssa Gerace