Jim Moore (right) tries a programmable headset at the urging of Blooming Memories volunteer Nicolas Narducci. Courtesy photo


Barbara Edmonds is enlisting high school music students, adult volunteers, and local professionals in her efforts to use music to enrich the lives of Monroe County elders living with Alzheimer’s disease. The nonprofit program she founded, Blooming Memories Thru Music, grew out of Edmonds’ experience watching her closest friend work as a caregiver for a relative with Alzheimer’s.

“I wanted to help caregivers deal with the strain and stress they’re going through,” says Edmonds, a retired Bloomington nurse. “By giving people with Alzheimer’s music, sometimes they come alive and are more cooperative in tasks of daily life.”

Blooming Memories is a partnership with the national Alive Inside Foundation. Locally, adult volunteers paired with high school music students will visit the private homes of people living with Alzheimer’s, Edmonds says. They will design playlists meaningful to the patients, who will listen to the music using Alive Inside headsets.

“It’s tailored for that person. That’s what makes it so powerful,” says Heather Hertling-Narducci, a local private voice teacher coordinating student involvement.

The initial goal is to train 25 adult volunteers. Each will oversee two Bloomington High School North music students, who will be trained and matched with elder patients. Monthly home visits will start in October and continue throughout the school year. Edmonds hopes the initiative will expand to other schools.

Dayna Thompson, an Alzheimer’s Resource Service educator at IU Health Bloomington Hospital who is training adults and students, believes the program will improve elders’ quality of life. The brain’s right temporal lobe, which houses music, is an area least affected by dementia, she says. “Triggering that part will trigger memories that are pleasant and help keep the brain active,” she adds.

About 1,800 people in Monroe County live with dementia, and half live at home, says Thompson. She says there is a danger that both caregivers and people with dementia will become isolated, and notes social engagement is important for brain health.

Chris Jackson, special audiences strategist for Monroe County Public Library, who is helping with technology training, says students stand to benefit, too. “They will build empathy and gain more involvement in their community and with the aging,” Jackson says.

For more information, visit the group’s Facebook page or find them at bloomingtonvolunteernetwork.org.