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West suburban seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia using the power of music to drum up memories

West suburban seniors with Alzheimer's and dementia using the power of music to drum up memories 02:32

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Once a month, a group of senior citizens get together to make a lot of noise in the western suburbs – the louder, the better.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside "Drum Circle," meant to drum up memories.

With the help of Tony Bennett, Chris Lavidas and his students tap into the power of music during his "Breaking Grounds in Drumming" class.

"The wonderful thing about drums is that no experience is necessary to do this," said Lavidas.

We've heard it before: old songs can drum up old history, but all the banging around led by Lavidas does something else, too.

"We try to do some of the music therapy aspect, getting their minds involved cognitively and creatively," he said.

His students are often senior citizens. The elderly drummers experiment with volume and pace. In another hearing-only exercise, they keep their eyes closed to work on auditory skills.

"The impact that you're having, that really is priceless," said Lavidas.

"It gives us peace of mind to know she's getting stimulation," said Christina Connolly of her 84-year-old mother in the drum class.

Connolly tells CBS2 she was most fascinated by the call and response part of class where Lavidas uses his drumsticks to create a rhythm, and most of his students mimic the beat perfectly. It's a crucial use of short-term memory; crucial because of where the class takes place: Terra Vista in Oakbrook Terrace.

"We are an assisted living community, but we solely specialized in serving those with Alzheimer's and other types of dementia," explains executive director Natalie McFarland.

Lavidas admits, at first, some senior homes rejected the racket his drumming class makes. But over the years, he's tuned up his approach.

"I don't want them to be merely an audience listening to me present or perform, but I want everybody to be part of the program," he said.

He estimates "Breaking Grounds in Drumming" has educated thousands of seniors over the past 10 years.

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