Dale Lazar loves jukeboxes.
But it’s not so much a love for dancing that’s behind his love affair; it’s more like a love for what he can do with them.
Lazar, who donated two jukeboxes to the Charles Morris Center at Weinberg Village, uses the mechanical CD players in his therapy program called, Memories Remembered. He regularly meets with Charles Morris residents, spins some discs from the ’40s and ’50s — the music of their lives — and asks his seniors to, er, name that tune — and the artist who recorded it.
For his work in Memories Remembered, the Jewish Association on Aging just named Lazar its Volunteer of the Year.
“I want to stimulate memory,” Lazar said when accepting the award at last week’s JAA annual meeting. “I want to stimulate every brain cell … whether it’s millions or only one. I strive to do this in the context of Jewish mitzvot and tradition … honoring and respecting the elders of our community.”
At the beginning of each session, Lazar said he personally welcomes each resident, introduces himself, smiles and makes eye contact.
“In return, I hope for a name and smile with eye contact. If it’s not possible, that’s fine. I take what I can get.
“By introducing ourselves, we connect physically, visually and emotionally, then we begin a topical discussion such as my favorite vacation, my favorite TV show or any topic I can think of to resurrect memories. … It’s about respectful engagement and stimulation, whether it’s cognitive, physical or emotional.”
Lazar didn’t just arbitrarily decide to work with jukeboxes.
“In the mid ’50s, my dad, Bernie, as a member of his B’nai B’rith group, donated a jukebox to an orphanage on the North Side,” he said. “In the early ’70s, my dad donated a jukebox to the Western Pennsylvania School for the Blind. In the mid-’90s, I donated two jukeboxes to Canterbury Place where my parents resided. And today, Charles Morris has two juke boxes — a tradition, I lovingly embrace.”
In introducing Lazar as this year’s Volunteer of the Year, JAA Resident and Community Services Director Sharyn Rubin, his friend since graduate school, described the work he does as a heartfelt therapy for seniors.
“Dale knows it’s the music that permeates the heart,” she said, “better than any medicine.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)