Music helps Atlanta seniors remember and reconnect

John Abel is the music man at AG Rhodes Health and Rehab Center in Atlanta's Grant Park neighborhood, surrounded by a large circle of seniors who are ready to jam.

"I tell them it's not a choir," Abel says. 'I tell them not to hold back because you've been told you're not a good singer, or you don't feel comfortable. I say, 'We're singing for our health.'"

Because the certified music therapist knows music can be magical.

"You'll have someone who has their head down, kind of shut off from the world, but the music can bring them out," Abel says.

For 30-years, he's has been leading sessions like this, to help clients reconnect and remember.

"There are areas of the brain that hold memories that are stimulated by music specifically," Abel says. "One area, in particular, is one of the last areas to atrophy if someone has dementia. So that, the fact that music can kind of go in and dip in and stimulate that one area, it's just very powerful."

Holly Talburt, now 80, loves these sessions.

"He calls everyone by name, which I think is interesting," Talburt says. "He seems to appreciate any contribution that you make at all."

And, Holly's daughter Susan Talburt likes watching the group interact and seeing her mother smiling.

"During these classes there is banter, there is laughter," Talburt says. "It's just about having fun, and having life in the community."

Once the group has warmed up, the real jam session begins.

"He'll just hand us anything, tambourines, some guys get drums," Holly Talburt says. "We don't have to be experts in it. Just do it. If you can get to the beat of the music, that's good."

It's a half hour concert of classics, religious favorites, and songs by Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, and, another crowd favorite, "Mustang Sally."

When it's time to go, almost everyone in the circle is smiling.

"They're talking to each other. They're happy."

You get the feeling they'll be back for more.