Retire-To Volunteering

Host Ed Zinkiewicz uncovers engaging—sometimes surprising, but never dull— volunteer opportunities available to retirees. Interviewing volunteers and volunteer coordinators each week, Ed highlights the meaningful contributions volunteers make and also the rewards volunteers receive. Imagining a retirement that matters starts here. Sign up for Ed's free, weekly newsletter at and get listings of coming episodes.
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Feb 15, 2017

Brian McCaffrey Makes Personal Playlists for Dementia and Alzheimer's Patients

After thirty years of ministry as a Lutheran (ELCA) chaplain, recently retired Brian McCaffrey moved with his wife, Helen, and two cats to St. Paul, Minnesota. Eager to follow his interest in the relationship between aging and spiritual development, he now volunteers at Lyngblomsten Care Facility in St. Paul.

Brian helps in the facility’s Music and Memory Program, which creates and provides personalized playlists using iPods and similar digital audio systems that enable those struggling with Alzheimer’s, dementia, and other cognitive and physical challenges to reconnect with the world through music-triggered memories. Currently, Brian volunteers two to three hours weekly and sees 8–10 residents. He enjoys working with the dementia patients and loves the smile music puts on people’s faces—not onlyresidents, but also family and staff.

Each person receives an iPod loaded with his or her favorite music. Because music is stored in a different section of the brain than language, it often remains after many other memories have been lost. Music can function as a trigger to those memories. An added benefit is that music can have a calming affect when a resident is agitated.

Brian says, "I get the chance to make a difference in people’s life that day. I bring a smile and often memories that they enjoy sharing, which brings a sense of purpose and meaning into my day, as well. Volunteering allows me to keep doing some of my favorite types of work—without the time clock. Less expectations allows for a little more fun…and it gets me out of the house!"

More details can be found on the Music and Memory website (

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