The Magic of music in your “courting years”

What is it about the music of your “courting years” that creates such powerful emotions?   From the time I first began working with Alzheimer’s patients, 25 years ago, I heard the professionals talking about the powerful of music from the patients’ “courting years.”  We were doing a study on the therapeutic benefits of music with patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and all of the literature pointed to the fact that music from their “courting years” seemed to have multiple positive effects.  For one thing, this music was “rememberable” even when the patient couldn’t remember hid name, age, place of birth or recognize family members.

At the time, I was somewhat skeptical, but on my very first visit, I brought with me a stack of old sheet music from the 1910’s, 1920’s, 1930’s as well as hymn books from several different churches and denominations.  Many of the patients were calm and pleasant, but all were confused.  I sat down at the piano and began playing “Just a Song at Twilight.”  Many of the patients stopped talking, smiled, and some started singing.  I was impressed with the initial attempt, so proceeded to play “Tip-Toe Through the Tulips,” “Stout-Hearted Men,” and “In My Merry Oldsmobile.”

My thoughts drifted to “why the courting years?”  Then I started thinking about when most people would say the courting years are…probably age 13/14 through 24/25?  Not that one can’t court or date or fall in love after that time, but probably most of us have our initial strong feelings of love and attraction in adolescence and well into our 20’s.  Invariably, music is a big part of that!  Everybody knows about all of the hormones that are coursing through our bodies in adolescence.  That’s one of the reasons that “falling in love” is such a memorable and powerful experience.  Add the music of the day to that experience and they are inseparably melded in the most powerful and wonderful way!

You probably remember the music that you listened to in your early teens, mid-teens, and later teens?  I know I do!  I turned 13 in 1961, so all of the music of the 1960’s is what brings back the floods of memories to me!  The Beatles, Motown, the Carpenters, Petula Clark, the whole British Invasion!  That’s what does it for me.  So how do your bring the right music to your family member or friend that has dementia or other memory problems?   First of all, you need to determine when that person was between maybe 13-30.  With Google it’s very easy to find the hits of the day in whatever those years are.  Then you can go to YouTube and find those songs or even complete playlists of the hits of every year since at least 1900.

Get your family member some headphones, attached to an iPod shuffle or similar and voila!  You’ll be bringing them hours and hours of joy and pleasure that would not otherwise be available!  I’ve created a CD of “Music for Memory Care” that you can also purchase at Music for Memory Care


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