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Church audio device links seniors with their childhood memories

For many Australian seniors the ageing process naturally brings about a loss in memory but a new hand-held audio player, MemoryLink, aims to reconnect church music memories in the elderly to their earlier lives. Ben Rogers reports.

Ten years ago the late Dr Fenton Sharpe AM attended a church service and noticed a worshipper, suffering from dementia, still able to sing every line of the hymns being played.

This incident inspired Dr Sharpe and a group of Christians from Pennant Hills Uniting Church to develop MemoryLink, a portable audio player with eight hours of content including bible readings, short meditations, hymns, children’s songs and prayers.

As part of MemoryLink’s development process around 1000 people throughout Australia were surveyed about their favourite children’s songs, hymns and readings. The findings were then used to compile a collection that would best resonate with elderly Australians.

While hymns were recorded at St Mark’s Anglican Church in Pennant Hills, the children’s songs were performed by children mainly from the Uniting Church scripture class at Pennant Hills Public School.

For Cathy Hoskin (Musical Director for MemoryLink’s children’s choir content), Dr Sharpe’s explanation of how the children’s musical content would resonate with the elderly was particularly memorable.

“I got so much out of the illustration Fenton [Sharpe] used, he drew a little timeline on the white board and sort of explained how with dementia your life starts going backwards so it was like a timeline reversing,” says Cathy. “He was explaining how important the things that they remembered as little children became important things for them at that stage again, and that the songs that they’d be singing were songs that they’d sing when they were their [the children’s] age or younger so it introduced the children to some fascinating songs for them.”

With over 1700 units sold to date, the device has clearly struck a chord with users, and the testimonials are glowing.

“I have seen God’s presence coming into people’s living room through MemoryLink,” stated one testimonial. “One lady had streams of tears running down her face as she listened.”

“MemoryLink is not only bringing my husband great joy, suffering as he does from dementia, but it is a great comfort to me as well,” said another.

The device has been so helpful it even inspired one happy customer to pen a three-page letter singing MemoryLink’s praises: “I wanted to share with you that last evening, as I was sitting with Mum, I turned on MemoryLink and it was an answer to my prayers.”

As Australia’s elderly are impacted by COVID-19 restrictions, MemoryLink is a practical and comfortable way of allowing isolated seniors to connect with a musical church experience from their living rooms.

For more information and to access an order form visit MemoryLink. Alternatively phone (02) 8411 2168 and leave a message for Annette, email memorylink@bphuniting.org or for a postal request contact Beecroft-Pennant Hills Uniting, 82 Beecroft Road, Beecroft, NSW 2119.

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