Residents in Silver Bay's Minnesota Veterans Home will have a little more music in their lives thanks to a donation from the American Red Cross. The veterans home received a donation of 15 MP3 players and headphone sets as well as several iTunes cards to support their music and memory program.

"It's amazing how much of a difference music can make," said recreational therapist Meghan Cavallin. "If they're having a bad day, they can slip on the headphones and you'll see their expression just change. It helps them deal with everything from noise to pain."

Cavallin and music therapist Martha Chateleine have been leading the program for about four years now. The program is focused on providing music for primarily memory care unit residents, as Cavallin said music can be something that remains ingrained in a person's memory.

"It's one of the last things that they'll forget," she said. "A lot of our residents have had music in their lives since they were children, so it's something that sticks as they age."

A donation of mp3 players, headphones and iTunes gift cards will provide music and comfort to residents in the Silver Bay Veterans Home memory care unit. (Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross)
A donation of mp3 players, headphones and iTunes gift cards will provide music and comfort to residents in the Silver Bay Veterans Home memory care unit. (Photo courtesy of the American Red Cross)

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Each resident gets their own iPod or MP3 player with individually selected songs that appeal to them. Cavallin said this can take some research, especially if the resident can't easily tell them what kind of music they prefer.

"We'll try talking to them or reaching out to their family first, but sometimes if they don't know, we'll talk to other staff in the building to see what they've seen," Cavallin said. "What have they responded to when we've had live music in? When have you seen them tapping their foot or respond in any way?"

As for popular genres, Cavallin said there's a lot of country-western fans and a lot of "classic oldies."

"Like Johnny Cash or Elvis Presley or even Patsy Cline," she said. "But it's also a good variety, like with any other people."

Veterans home spokesperson Joyce Scott said the donation of devices will help the program expand out of the memory care unit to other residents at the home.

"It's a program that we love to do, but it's also kind of an expensive one, so it's nice to have donations like this to help us fund it," Scott said.

In addition to the MP3 players, the American Red Cross brought a large banner with messages of support written out by Northland residents over the last 18 months.