It’s a rare treat when a movie or book comes along and captures what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. However, Dan Cohen, the founder of a nonprofit organization known as Music and Memory, has been able to do just that with his film entitled Alive Inside. Through the camera lens, Cohen is able to show viewers three disturbing themes classically associated with Alzheimer’s disease: aging in place, mortality and the real truth about U.S. nursing homes. Perhaps more importantly, Alive Inside proves that music can help seniors diagnosed with the deadly form of dementia.
Music Therapy Shows Great Promise Among Seniors with Alzheimer’s
Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia seem to literally erase the mental and physical presence of affected seniors. However, Cohen noticed that, when he played certain songs for dementia-diagnosed seniors in nursing homes, they were still inclined to respond.
By simply exposing seniors to familiar music, friends and family members are able to once again connect on an emotional level. As the older adults continue to experience reactions brought on by music, loved ones are able to get answers to direct questions or simply rejoice in the moment, listening to stories of the seniors’ past.
Music, as the film’s title suggests, proves seniors with Alzheimer’s are quite literally Alive Inside.
During the opening scenes of Alive Inside, we’re shown a 90-year old woman apologizing to the cameraman. She’s apologizing because she can’t remember anything when she’s asked to talk about her past life. Once she has headphones placed over her ears, the reaction is undeniable.
By playing Louis Armstrong’s classic rendition of “When the Saints Go Marching In,” viewers get a first-hand look at the transformation of this woman’s expressions. In a matter of minutes, the woman becomes emotional and tears of joy begin rolling down her cheeks. Next, the elderly woman starts talking about her past and the detailed memories the Louis Armstrong tune has evoked. Quite simply, the music has transformed her brain’s functioning power and memory recall.
Dan Cohen’s drive to help seniors with Alzheimer’s is strong – as is his belief that music therapy and memory are irreversibly bound to one another. A firm believer that music can improve lives, Cohen would love to see every nursing home patient be provided with a pre-loaded MP3 player full of their favorite music.
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