IU offers class on music and Alzheimer's, possible benefits from music


Jennie Gubner, visiting lecturer in the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at IU, talks with her students during class. Her service learning course pairs students with older adults who have Alzheimer's and uses music to try and help them. Courtesy Photo Buy Photos

Older adults can now dance, sway and sing to Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and any other music they like as part of a new IU service learning course, according to an IU press 

The new service learning course, F252: Music and Memory, pairs students with older adults, many of whom have Alzheimer’s disease and suffer from memory loss, depression and anxiety.

Students then work with those older community members and curate a personalized playlist based off their “music history.”

The class is taught by Jennie Gubner, a visiting lecturer of 

Gubner said in the release that her class is a combination of neuroscience, ethnomusicology, film and health care studies.

“It’s an interdisciplinary, hands-on course,” she said in the release. “We explore the relationship between music, memory and the brain through fieldwork, filmmaking and service work in the local 
Bloomington community.”

The older adults the students are paired with reported feeling happier and calmer while listening to the music picked out for them.

Cathleen Weber, owner and executive director of the Better Day Club, an adult day program in Bloomington, has partnered with Gubner and her class on the project .

She said it’s not only fun but useful as well.

“Music works in a different part of our brains than our language center, and as a result, it is accessible to us long after our expressive abilities and language erodes through the process of dementia,” Weber said in the release. “Music does not replace all medication, but it can certainly alleviate some of the symptoms and the challenges that we traditionally use medicine for.”

Gubner is working to change the idea that music is only entertainment and shift to the realization that music can promote health and wellness.

She is currently working to certify Bloomington facilities to use these same techniques for dementia patients.

Gubner’s students, with Weber’s help, are also 
creating videos and films of their interactions in the hopes of raising awareness of the issues involved with mental health and diseases like Alzheimer’s while learning about community members.

“I think the students have been joyfully and happily surprised at how much these older adults have to offer,” Weber said in the press release. “They have so much richness to share.”

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