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Music to soothe the Alzheimer's soul
May 6, 2014 9:58 AM   Subscribe

My father-in-law has Alzheimer's disease. We need a music player with lots and lots of snowflakes.

Along with having been a brilliant carpenter, athlete and inventor, he was also a beautiful tenor and sang along with a bunch of Yiddish musicians in the 50's in the Catskills. While he can't have access to a power tools and he can't play a game of handball any longer, he loves listening to music. He is very disoriented though and CANNOT learn how to use things. Even a new type of fork can be a challenge, therefore I need some kind of music player that has the following attributes:

1. does not have prerecorded children's music (we have looked at a lot of kid's music players)
2. we can upload mp3s of his favorite Yiddish music
3. a giant (or relatively large) play button
4. if he touches the music player, it will not spontaneously turn off

We need to be able to write PLAY on the play button or it already must say PLAY, otherwise he won't be able to remember how to make it work. We would like for him to be able to listen to it even when no one is around to help him.

Bonus points for a headphone jack so that the entire building doesn't have to hear Liebele Waldman sing.
posted by Sophie1 to Technology (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Oh yeah, bonus points for something coming in under $50.

BTW, an iPod or anything of its ilk is WAY WAY WAY too small and complex.
posted by Sophie1 at 10:04 AM on May 6


If it doesn't need to be able to play without headphones then an iPod shuffle would seem to fit the bill pretty well. It's really just a big Play/Pause button. You could write "play" on a sticker and put it over the play/pause button (if he has difficulty remembering that the triangle symbol=play).
posted by yoink at 10:05 AM on May 6


I guess the reason the iPod is too complex is there's no volume dial and that would be very handy also, the on/off switch I expect is going to trip him up terribly. I think we need something relatively old school. /threadsit
posted by Sophie1 at 10:08 AM on May 6


The Sansa Shake looks relatively straightforward to use, and doesn't require headphones. It's been discontinued, unfortunately, but there appear to be a lot of used models available on Amazon/Ebay/Rakuten at varying price points.
posted by Bardolph at 10:11 AM on May 6


By the way, I see that I wrote "shuffle" when I meant to write "nano." It may not make a difference in terms of volume controls, though.
posted by yoink at 10:14 AM on May 6


You might find what you want looking for waterproof MP3 players, because they're designed to be far simpler than standard players. Like this one?
posted by Capri at 10:26 AM on May 6 [1 favorite]


Would you consider an old school cassette player ? It might feel less foreign to him and usually has pretty basic controls.
posted by InkaLomax at 1:21 PM on May 6


This is an interesting question. On some not-too-deep googling, these are the closest potential options I could find. Apologies if I'm just relisting what you've already found, and also if they're too far from what you're looking for.

- the sweetpea mp3 players are for kids and come preloaded, but you can load your own music too (and I assume remove the tracks it comes with, but I'm not sure). Aside from the negative reviews though, I couldn't tell how volume adjustment works and got the impression it might not be straightforward. Similarly, Fisher Price players

- a simple-looking SD card player (another one, and a bunch more)

- This player is big enough to add labels to. Whether it's easy to use is another question.

- "assistive technology" seems like a useful keyword. Among other things, I found this, which has simple interfaces for mp3 players and USB drives (scroll down - one in particular has two huge buttons, clearly labelled)

different approaches:

- players designed for sight-impaired users: example (scroll down), smaller button example, one with enormous buttons (but it might be too easy to knock the USB drive out)

- Muji makes a wall-mounted CD player that you operate by pulling on a cord (a cheaper option is this). A recommendation for the Muji for your use case

- CD players in general can have fewer options and thus a simpler interface than mp3 players

- you might find stereos with simple remote controls (or just remotes you can use with your own equipment, like this (though this one seems to work only with TVs))


- This previous thread had a bunch of suggestions, and I saw a recommendation for the Alliance for Technology Access as a useful resource.
posted by egg drop at 2:07 PM on May 6


It could be worth looking for a small used CD jukebox and filling it with his music. The interface would probably be familiar and maybe comforting to him. It would likely be a lot of legwork for you, though.
Good luck!
posted by current occupation: at 2:41 PM on May 6


In my experience, a CD player with a few large buttons is usually the easiest thing for someone with Alzheimer's to use alone. It's too big to hide or lose and more familiar than an MP3 player and thus easier to use indepently (no new skill to learn).

That said, if you're really focused on using MP3s (which are great because he can have so much more music at his disposal!) I would suggest getting a cheap tablet and loading it with music software. Most of the clients I've worked with pick up on the touchscreen concept very quickly--even people who are very confused have been able to touch a song on a playlist and get it to start. You can set it up so that the only thing on the desktop is the music player; that way he can't open something else and get frustrated. As a bonus, if someone is there to help him, I've seen people get a lot of joy out of simple touchscreen games like Cut The Rope or Presidents and Aliens, and setting a screensaver of family photos is a great opportunity, too!
posted by assenav at 9:40 AM on May 7


Seconding the cassette player. Using it will be part of his muscle memory, and they are so much less fiddly than anything tiny and slick and modern and stuff.
posted by flabdablet at 12:12 PM on May 7


Follow up. We got the sansa shaker. It was really really really tiny and didn't work at all. Finally we broke down and bought him a phonograph (you know, a record player).

That was the answer.
posted by Sophie1 at 1:09 PM on June 5 [1 favorite]


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