As the opening notes of “Quando, Quando, Quando” begin, Teddy Mac, an 81-year-old man living with Alzheimer’s, seems gruff, barking out comments to his son, Simon. But as soon as Engelbert Humperdinck croons the first words, Mac joins in right on cue, able to sing the song without skipping a beat from start to finish.
Mac was diagnosed with dementia in 2013, and is prone to aggressive behavior and often doesn’t recognize family members, says his son on the Youtube channel where he posts updates about his father’s condition.
But when he hears the music from his youth, Mac becomes a different person—or perhaps the one he used to be.
When Simon realized how music affected his father, who used to be club singer, he posted a video of one of their drives to social media with a link to make a donation to The Alzheimer’s Society. The response was immediate, and now the videos have millions of views.
Today, World Alzheimer’s Day, Mac’s family is releasing a full album of songs, with 25 percent of proceeds going to The Alzheimer’s Society. The album is called The Songaminute Man, a nickname Mac earned for his vast knowledge of songs.
On his website, Simon says sharing this time with his dad, who can be physically and verbally violent, reminds him of earlier times. “It was in these brief moments that he would be back to his old self,” said Simon.
Music has been shown not only to have therapeutic effects on dementia patients, but also dementia caregivers. Outside of a calming effect, some researchers say the way that Alzheimer’s patients access music when they’ve forgotten other memories can teach us a lot about how memories are retrieved and lost, and studying how that works may have the power to show us how to unlock the memories that Alzheimer’s takes away.
The album is available for purchase on songaminuteman.com.