How Portable Music Players Help Keep Seniors Minds Active

Do you have a playlist of your life that you can relate each song to? Jerry Bloom recounts how he uses his iPod to keep his mind and his memories active, and how this device can be valuable for any senior.

The setting sun transforms the still shores of Lake Simcoe into a pink canvas. Amidst the tranquility, a father who yearns for the evening’s first glass of red wine, indulges his son’s restlessness and smashes a wiffle ball off of a puny plastic baseball bat. The hitherto frantic playground on the water has disappeared, as the day’s boaters have retreated to their lounge chairs and dining rooms.


Folks, this account is not a story. For my grandfather, Jerry Bloom, it is a summer ritual (except that I am no longer the little boy on the lawn). Zaidy, as I call him, relives this scene every time the theme from the motion picture Gettysburg plays on his iPod. Indeed, on steamy summer nights when the cottagers let the lake rest and when my family attacked baskets of pita and hummus on a green awning-covered deck, that song augmented a soothing aura.

Zaidy now enjoys these vivid remembrances through a “very powerful tool of nostalgia,” his iPod, that my family bought for him three Father’s Days ago. The hip 74-year old, recommends that everyone have such a “constant companion.”

Like a photo album, the iPod is an especially potent device for seniors.

“I love music and with this device, I am able to store my all-time favourites,” he explains. “I could listen to ‘Chances Are’ by Johnny Mathis and right away remember that it was the song I used to dance with girls at school and make out with them to.”

Thankfully, my grandmother is in another room during this conversation.

Zaidy particularly appreciates the iPod’s portability and his apartment’s speaker system to which he connects it. He most likes that his music player need only include songs that carry some meaning to him. But, no matter where he takes this electronic friend, it never has any pattern or order.

“I have it on shuffle all the time. I don’t have to create a mood for myself,” he says. “It could be any genre. I like the variety.”

Each song fosters a different ambiance-not all of them pleasant-in his active mind.

“When I hear ‘Yes We Have No Bananas,’ a comedic number by Spike Jones, “I immediately think of my father. He’s been gone for a long time, but I miss him.”

When I hear that tune, I think of my Zaidy.

Schindler’s List is also very powerful. When it comes on, I stop whatever I’m doing and just listen. It’s so beautiful and sad and conveys heartbreak and devastation. It brings me back to the opening scene of the movie.”

George Formby’s wartime hit Our Sergeant Major takes him to a Toronto concert hall. “I saw him perform in person and I remember him singing the song in the early 40s.” He describes exactly what Formby was wearing, a recall that he admits the iPod has “spurred.”

Though, like anybody who did not grow up in a digital universe, he initially feared the iPod, Zaidy admits that, “With a little practice, it’s pretty simple.”

And, learning how to operate the pocket-sized piece of equipment was worthwhile, for now whenever his iPod plays Gettysburg’s theme, or Formby’s ukulele, or Schindler’s List main title, or ‘Chances Are,” he can allow his mind to wander through a collage of his life.

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How does music influence your life? What memories does your favorite song inspire most? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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