Dale Lazar is on a musical mission to get seniors rocking and rolling to their favorite tunes.
When the Pittsburgher visited his parents after they relocated to a nursing home in 1996, he saw a need for musical memory stimulation and donated a jukebox to the home filled with classic oldies. The positive response from residents eventually led him to establish the Jukebox Memories Project — an initiative to enlist jukebox operators from throughout the United States to donate CD jukeboxes to Alzheimer’s units in nursing homes.
For senior citizens living in these communities, many of whom have developed cognitive disorders, hearing a song from their youth can instantly transport them to happy moments in their lives and at the same time improve the quality of their present lives, says Lazar.
“The jukebox music creates energy. It stimulates memories,” he says, describing what happens when a CD starts spinning: “Residents who are pretty much catatonic, some of them begin tapping their feet or humming a tune… they may think of their first date or of having a milkshake listening to the music.”
The idea of donating jukeboxes came to Lazar after growing up in a family business that stretches back three generations — H. Lazar & Son, Inc., a coin-operated amusement company founded in 1932. When Lazar was a child, his father donated a jukebox to an orphanage in the 1950s, and the gift made an impression on him.
While the Jukebox Memories Project has lately expanded from Pittsburgh to more than ten other cities, including Rockville, the initiative wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Charles Goldstuck, president and CEO of TouchTunes Interactive Networks, donating a significant amount of CDs from different musical eras, starting with the 1940s through the 70s.
Lazar donated three jukeboxes in the last four years to The Charles Morris Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Pittsburgh. Jason Rubin, a principal in E2 Amusements, a company with offices in Baltimore and Denver, gave a jukebox last year to The Hebrew Home of Greater Washington in Rockville. Rubin, a resident of Montgomery County, said that the Hebrew Home site was important to him because he has family there. He worked with the executive director to install the jukebox in the lobby next to the cafeteria.
Rubin said the residents “use it like crazy” with people “dancing with their walkers.”
According to Lazar, there is one crooner who the residents keep coming back for more.
“I would say that songs by Frank Sinatra generate the most interest. Maybe it is the timelessness of Frank Sinatra but I would say he is among the most popular artists.”