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Music may be the medicine for memory: How Shining Star CLE is opening minds of people with Alzheimer

Posted September 06, 2023 in Articles

Author: Monica Robins

This Sunday, 10 high school students will compete in the 7th annual Shining Star CLE at Playhouse Square.

Most people would just smile if they saw Valerie Hall and her daughter, Tiffani, singing an old Motown hit together.

Valerie sings every word to a song she’s known for decades.

She’s a client at the Mandel Adult Day Center at Menorah Park in Beachwood.

Tiffani’s been bringing her mom to the center since January.

Valerie has dementia. Her memory and verbal skills are severely impacted. Until she hears the soundtrack of her life. It’s like a switch flip and her memory sparks.

“It means my mom is still there, she just starts getting happy and her whole face brightens up and she starts smiling,” Tiffani said.

These days Valerie is a karaoke queen at the center.

“It’s amazing, everyday things that she won't remember, but she'll remember songs from before I was born and knows every single word, even songs as I was growing up,” Tiffani said.

She was shocked when her mom started singing all the words to a 90s rap song she never even realized her mother knew.

“It's been proven that music can not only help you recall past memories, but also help you lay down new ones,” Director Tina Witt said.

She sees it firsthand every day at work.

She was stunned when Valerie recalled the name of an employee whom she had just met, 20 minutes later.

This Sunday, 10 high school students will compete for more than $18,000 in prize money in the 7th annual Shining Star CLE singing competition at Playhouse Square.

The event funds memory care programs at Menorah Park, where the Mandel Center is located.

Over the years, funding purchased smart TVs and tablets to help residents play memory games and create virtual family photo albums.

But it also funds instruments, such as pianos, drums, and guitars that clients can play. It paid for the karaoke machine that’s a huge hit as well as music therapists, geriatric exercise experts and even live performances.

“You turn on some music and someone who never exercises all of sudden is dancing, or someone who doesn't put sentences together is singing word for word,” Witt said.

Every day music is medicine and while it’s not the cure, it certainly helps settle agitation, brighten moods, and even sparks some old memories that spread smiles.

Tickets are still available for Shining Star CLE. Learn more HERE.

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