New documentary shows impact of music on Delaware Alzheimer’s patient

     Photo courtesy of UDaily.

    Photo courtesy of UDaily.

    Buna Fletcher was so smart, she graduated from college at the age of 19. 

     She was an artist and an art teacher who became a librarian. For many years, she played music in ensembles with her husband and friends. Today, playing music is one of the few things in life that she still has.

    At the age of 83, Alzheimer’s disease has robbed Fletcher of many of the daily activities she once enjoyed. However, once a week, she can still be found playing duets and tapping her feet to the music she plays with good friend Doortje Shover.

    Every Friday afternoon, Fletcher and Shover get together for a few hours to play music. The women met a few years ago when they both participated in a recorder ensemble at University of Delaware’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

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    This was before Fletcher developed Alzheimer’s.

    While at the institue, they sat next to each other. Shover always found herself amazed by Fletcher’s musical ability.

    “I didn’t really know or say much to her, but when I heard her play, I thought this woman is unbelievable, she is an excellent musician,” recalled Shover.

    The onset of Alzheimer’s

    As Fletcher’s disease began to develop, her behavior changed and she was no longer able to function. As a result, she had to leave the recorder ensemble. It was a great loss in her life, but as Shover soon discovered, it was a loss for herself as well.

    Doortje really missed Buna.

    “I almost cried,” Shover said. “I missed her sitting next to me, we are so in tuned with each other.”

    On a trip to her native Holland, Shover decided to visit a music store to purchase duet music for the recorder, with hopes of playing it with Fletcher when she returned home to Delaware.

    However, she was stunned by what she found when she returned: Fletcher’s condition had worsened. Her cognitive skills were very far gone.

    But, when she put the music stand in front of her and they began to play, it was just like old times. Fletcher could still sight-read and play music effortlessly.

    A life surrounded by music

    Fletcher was surrounded by music throughout her life: Her father was a pianist and composer. While growing up in Brooklyn, she played piano and guitar. She also sang, which she still enjoys doing. Her favorite music is Jewish folk songs, which always seems to bring a huge smile to her face.

    Amazed by Fletcher’s response to music, Shover decided she wanted to share their story with others, and set out to produce a short film about their relationship and Alzheimer’s. With no former fundraising experience, the $10,000 production budget was raised with the help of many friends and a few strangers.

    Late in 2013, the film titled “Playing On” became a reality. Shover hopes many people will see it and will be inspired by the benefits that music can have on those with Alzheimer’s.

    To learn more about “Playing On,” contact Doortje Shover at

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