Meg LaPorte

Dan Cohen’s goal to bring music to all of the nation’s 16,000 nursing facilities is a lofty one. But he is

determined to do in in a unique way—with iPods (or other MP3 players) loaded with individualized musical playlists. As executive director of Music & Memory, a nonprofit organization, Cohen’s mission is well on it ways to becoming a reality.

In 2006, he came up with the idea of creating iPod playlists for residents at a Long Island nursing facility after hearing a story on the radio about how the wildly popular gadgets were becoming ubiquitous. Not so for long term care residents, he discovered after conducting some research on it.

With that, Cohen set out to help residents and staff members at the nursing facility with what he knew would be a therapeutic benefit. After the pilot confirmed his hypothesis with spectacular results, such as reduced agitation and improved mood among residents, among other things, Cohen decided to expand his idea across the country.The result today is a website ( that offers technical support and ideas for providers and caregivers as well as ideas for how to obtain iPods.

“A new iPod Shuffle today costs $49,” says Cohen, “and now the technology allows the Shuffle to hold multiple playlists, which means they can be used by multiple residents. So if a resident with dementia needs it to help ease agitation with sundowning at 4 p.m., another resident can use it to get motivated to get out of bed.”

Multiple headsets may be necessary for hygiene purposes, Cohen notes, but they can cost as little as $5 each. “For many, the largest expense will be for the music that is downloaded through iTunes.”

Cohen recently teamed up with the Institute for Music and Neurologic Function to create a new program known as Well-Tuned. By giving providers insights into how to manage large numbers of playlists, handle music legally, and how to apply best practice outcomes to persons with a wide variety of physical, cognitive, and social situations, the program is helping Cohen reach his goal. Well-Tuned also offers support that includes orientation and staff training.

Contact Cohen at (888) 792-2247 or at