Fran Panella is an amazing woman, a true Dementia Whisperer.
Fran is growing an Alive Inside Coalition Inspired project with a New Jersey non-profit.
They call their program "Connection Thru Music" -
She now has paired over 20 students with their "Elder Buddies" who have Dementia.
They visit in the home of the elder with a mentor, usually a parent or grandparent.
They spend building friendship, learning their new Buddy's life story and sharing music that they loved.
All have gone through a Dementia Awareness and Empathy building workshop and
have created Songlist using the Alive Inside APP.
AIF has impacted 20 young people to feel purpose and learn real empathy....
20 adult volunteer mentors to be moved to see their young loved one empowered in this way.........
20 individuals with dementia to have the chance to feel a sense of self, connection, and love and
to experience their music and the memories it evokes.....and 20 family caregivers who have the chance
to see their loved one smile, laugh and be "their Mom again"!
Profound Life experience for 100 people!!!
These great kids have been participating for over 2 years.
Here are stories about two of our special young volunteers, Brody and Kenley.
1. Brodie and Bonnie:
Brody who met Bonnie when she was living in her home alone....after weeks of visits sharing mainly old hymns........
Brody finally discovered her favorite country song "Country Roads" by John Denver.....
and the day they sang "Ive' been working on the railroad".....Bonnie's memory was
flooded with details about her youth in West Virginia - her Dad worked on the railroad.
Bonnie now lives in a nursing home...but Brody still makes time to visit with her occasionally....
and it's like he never left. She still calls him "Smiley" every time!
Brody, now finishing up freshman year in high school is planning on being a Mentor himself....
when his High School starts a project this fall.
2. Kenley and Vito:
Kenley is 9 years old and visits Vito with her Mentor (Mom) Katie.
Vito was a professional trumpet player and an artist.
He hasn't played his trumpet or painted any pieces in years,
but his artwork lines the walls of his home.
His wife is still madly in love with him and tries to keep their life as "normal"
as possible, but it is getting more and more difficult.
She is clinging to anything that connects Vito as he declines.
Kenley immediately connected with Vito and they found his favorite Dizzy Gillespie music the first day!
She said in a video her Mom took that if she "helps one person, she is really helping
the whole entire world...and that one person can make a difference".
Her mom, Katie wrote this after the 2nd visit:
"Kenley absolutely adores this man. She was dancing for him today and he calls her "sweetheart."
We listen to Dizzy together and chat about how great he was.
Thank you for allowing Kenley to participate in this amazing project.
She has learned so much about the human spirit and how we can touch each other's lives with music."
Kenley has now been paired with 3 Buddies and is an advocate for the Alive Inside Foundation mission.....
Her current Buddy is 97 years old Mario, a WWII veteran who was part of D Day Invasion.
The two have a special relationship.....she shares his favorite Sinatra songs and he shares
stories of his days as a teenager in Hoboken and a soldier in the Army.
Kenley also had a beautiful experience with Eta....during her last months of life.
They really connected when they realized that Kenley's Mom Katie was one of Eta's first Nursery School students!
Eta told us many stories of her young days working in a family hotel and
then raising chickens on her farm before starting the Nursery School.
The shared lots of hugs along with Eta's favorite show tunes!
Here is Kenley doing a demonstration for her classmates and on stage with me
at last year's Rock Against Dementia event in Asbury Park!
3. Jayden and Peter:
Jayden visits Peter with his Mentor (Mom) Laurie.
They share his Spanish language and it makes him so happy to sing and speak with them.
They play dominoes and look at pictures of his native Puerto Rico.
He is brought to tears singing, "Ay ya yai yai...."
4. Rose & Bill:
Rose is a college student, she connects well with
Bill who lives with his loving wife, Claire.
They used to go out dancing when they were younger,
but Bill is really declined and barely speaks now and needs 24/7 care.
He still loves music - especially Sinatra.
Rose is a musician and brings in her guitar to play and sing for him.
Contact: Francine Pannella, LPN, CDP, ASFA-CPT
Owner, The Best You Fitness, LLC