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Durham students use music to help those with Alzheimer's disease

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DURHAM, N.C. -

Technology seems to come easy for a high schooler like Andre Jiggetts. The junior at the Durham Performance Learning Center is volunteering, along with several other students, to use technology and music to help those with cognitive impairments.

Jiggetts downloaded "Respect" by Aretha Franklin for a man he has never met. But that download could help out that stranger break free of a disease, even if it is momentarily.

"They'll be able to listen to it and go back to the memories that they had with the songs," Jiggetts said.

Jiggetts is volunteering for a program named "Music in the Mind" through the non-profit Linkability. The volunteers use donated iPods at the Durham Center for Senior Life's Adult Day Health program.

LinkAbility Executive Director Janice Brahms-Butler said the outcome of using music on people with diseases such as Alzheimer's or dementia is life changing.

"You can see somebody that goes from a near vegetative state to actually having a sense of self again immediately," Brahms-Butler said.

A man named Nathaniel struggles with Alzheimer's disease daily and sits in a state of confusion some of the time. But listening to music Jiggetts downloaded for him changes Nathaniel almost instantly.

"Before he was quiet sitting in his chair. You saw him light up and start to sing and move his hands and become animated," Brahms-Butler said. "I felt so connected to him I had to dance."

She has a connection to people like Nathaniel because lost her father to a cognitive disorder. She said she witnessed him losing his sense of self.

"It's literally changing people. Seniors are not as agitated in nursing homes and in settings like this," she said.

Jiggetts said he loves seeing the change the students are making with their volunteering.

"If it was one of my grandparents, I would love for someone to do it for them as well," he said.

LinkAbility is collecting donations to spread the program. You can find out how to donate here or to find out more at their Facebook page.

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