AlzU Blog

High School Students Use Technology and Music to Impact Families Living with Alzheimer’s Disease (Part I)

Many school clubs and organizations are starting up around the country, involving students who want to volunteer to help people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).  Some are focusing on educating the public, many are involved in raising projects to help raise money for the cause and others are focusing on using technology to help people with AD. One such school, in Wisconsin, involves students who are collaborating with experts, and getting involved in a program called Music and, a New York based non-profit organization, involved in training volunteers to use music to help people with AD.   

Wisconsin High School Students Help People with AD

At Clark Street Community School (CSCS), in Wisconsin, high school students are collaborating with several organizations to help people with AD.  The students aim to learn about dementia and AD from world renowned physicians, scientists and advocates, and then utilize that knowledge, coupled with technology and music, to help people living with Alzheimer’s. 

The Wisconsin Music and Memory Program, the Alzheimer’s Institute—an academic program, located at the University of Wisconsin’s School of Medicine—and the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center, are collaborating to support the students at Clark Street Community School.

The final step in the project is for the students to use music and technology, to help people with AD—and their caregivers and family members.

The members of the Music and Memory volunteer group at CSCS include:

  • Kate Kowalski, the Education Resource Manager at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute (WIA)
  • Julie Hyland, the director of the Wisconsin Music and Memory Student Program
  • The faculty and students at CSCS

The faculty and students at CSCS

The educational material being taught to the students—by the experts—includes topics such as:

-Mental health and well-being

-Brain science

-Alzheimer’s disease


-Effects of music on the brain

-Benefits of music for people with dementia

During the final stage of the project, the students are partnered up with people with AD and their caregivers to perform what they call, “music interviews.”  The interviews involve the students asking a few questions about the person with AD’s music preferences, as well as the person’s memories surrounding specific songs, musical events and more.  Next, the students’ pre-load iPods with custom playlists for the people with AD to listen to.

The program helps to get students involved in Alzheimer’s prevention and education projects on many different levels.  Heather Messer, a lead instructor of the Music & Memory seminar stated, “We see students using their learning in this seminar as a springboard to so many important and personalized projects.  We had one student give a public presentation to raise awareness of the aging population within the prison system, another created a rap [song] that highlighted her learning and understanding around brain function and mental health, and others dive into deeper relationships with aging family members. It’s incredible to watch how this seminar engages students on multiple levels.”

CLICK HERE to learn more about the Clark Street Community School’s program to help with Alzheimer’s disease, by reading part 2 of this article.  To learn about how to get students at your school involved in volunteering for the Music for Memories program, or to donate an iPod,  CLICK HERE.

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