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Monday 1 September 2014

Music to strike a chord with the elderly

Published 14/10/2012 | 05:00

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An enterprising Corkman is making waves with a radio station dedicated to our senior citizens, writes Ralph Riegel

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LADY Gaga, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and The Script are guaranteed to never feature on this new Irish radio station's playlist.

Instead, Radio Harmony station founder Michael O'Hanlon, 66, has vowed to feature only the very best recording stars from the Forties to the Sixties -- ranging from the mellow sounds of Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and Jim Reeves, to Vera Lynn, Connie Francis, Bing Crosby and Glen Miller.

Uniquely, Radio Harmony aims to cater for the specific audience of elderly people -- and in particular people suffering from various forms of dementia such as Alzheimer's.

The station -- which will be broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week -- is being operated from a studio in Michael O'Hanlon's Cork home and, thanks to the internet, will be available worldwide.

Now, Mr O'Hanlon and his partner, Gearoid Quill, hope to get every Irish nursing home, hospice and geriatric hospital to use their station via special internet radio sets.

Elderly people can also access the station in their own homes once they have a laptop or an internet radio set.

"The power of music is absolutely incredible -- and I have seen at first hand the calming and soothing effect that the music produced by these great artists can have on people with Alzheimer's," Michael said.

"In a way, these songs take people right back to their youth. They bring happy, pleasant and calming memories," he added.

"Listening to this music brings people through a door back to wonderful times and I have seen for myself the joy and happiness that this music can bring to people," he added.

In contrast, loud rock or rap music played on typical pop stations can have a disorienting and upsetting effect on older people.

Mr O'Hanlon, who is based in Douglas in Cork, said the idea for the Radio Harmony concept came when he brought a Scottish band to play at a Cork care facility a number of years ago.

"The effect on the elderly people was incredible. They responded to the music played by the band, which was all songs from the Fifties and Sixties. It was fantastic to watch -- it was very uplifting," he said.

The station also takes its inspiration from the Greek philosopher, Plato, who wrote over 2,300 years ago:

"Music is moral law, it gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, a gaiety and life to everything -- it is the essence of order and leads to all that is good, true and beautiful."

Mr O'Hanlon said that another feature of the new radio station will be the total absence of advertising slots and sponsorship 'jingles'.

"Research has shown that advertising upsets the whole calming effect that the music has for elderly people," he said, adding: "At times, it can even be distressing,"

Mr O'Hanlon said that the station would be looking for volunteers to help with presenting the various programmes, as well as donations of internet radios and used computer equipment.

"The key thing is to get nursing homes, hospitals and care facilities to realise the potential of internet radio, he said.

"And if anybody out there has a PC that they don't need, we'd be grateful to get it for Radio Harmony because the unit we have is getting on in years," he added.

For more information, visit harmonycork@gmail.com or https://sites.google.com/site/ radioharmonyinternational

Sunday Independent

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