Astorian requesting old iPods for Alzheimer’s patients

Astorian requesting old iPods for Alzheimer’s patients
Photo courtesy Dave Roth
By Rebecca Henely

An Astoria musician who has two parents with Alzheimer’s disease is holding a citywide drive to collect iPods. Caregivers have used the MP3 players as therapeutic tools to spur the memories of those with dementia.

“There are iPods lying in drawers all around the country that people don’t use because they want the latest and greatest,” said Dave Roth, 45.

Roth’s mother Nathalee and his father Milton were both diagnosed with the disease, which causes the degeneration of the mind over many years. Nathalee Roth was diagnosed almost five years ago and Milton Roth was diagnosed three years ago, although Dave Roth and his six elder brothers and sisters can now recall signs that their parents were beginning to show symptoms from at least a decade ago.

“My dad’s in early stages and my mom’s in the later stages,” Dave Roth said.

The Roths’ youngest son, a Broadway pit musician, has been working closely with the Alzheimer’s Association’s New York City chapter’s ambassador program for the last two years. Through the association, Dave Roth became aware of the documentary “Alive Inside.”

The in-progress film shows the work of neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks and social worker Dan Cohen, who found that exposing patients with Alzheimer’s disease to music from their childhood can spur patients who barely moved or spoke to groove to the music and sing.

“Using this personalized playlist for people with dementia … really has a dramatic effect and really engages and connects people back with the music,” said Jed Levine, executive vice president of the association’s New York chapter.

After seeing the film, Roth was eager to try it on his mother. Dave Roth said his mother can only speak four words on most days, but while listening to music she is able to sing words that she has not used for years.

“It’s extremely inspirational,” Dave Roth said. “Obviously as a musician the outreach of music is not surprising to me.”

Dave Roth then decided to create an iPod drive. The collection has been running since July 1 and ends Aug. 19, the same day as his parents’ 60th wedding anniversary. Donated iPods can be sent to the Alzheimer’s Association New York City Chapter, 360 Lexington Ave., 4th Floor, New York, NY 10017.

They will go to the nonprofit group Music & Memory, which will distribute them and, with the help of staff members and volunteers, create personal playlists for patients in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

“Whether it’s The Beatles or whether it’s Barbra Streisand or whether it’s opera or hymns, it’s music that’s been specifically chosen because it reflects who that person is,” Levine said.

As someone with two parents who have the disease and whose grandmother died of it, Dave Roth said the possibility that he and his siblings may be diagnosed with the disease later in their lives has been a motivator for them to get involved with fighting the disease.

“I not only want to help our parents, I want to help us,” he said.

The association said more than 265,000 city residents have Alzheimer’s disease.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4564.

More from Around New York