|Limited Release 18 July 2014|
Available on DVD 18 Nov 2014
With an extra hour on my hands, I decided to watch the 78-minute documentary Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory (2014).
I wept through the entire film.
Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett follows Dan Cohen, founder of Music and Memory for three years as Cohen gives people with dementia personalized iPods.
Cohen asks people with dementia or their caregivers, "What are your favorite songs?" Then he builds a playlist around those songs and gives people their own iPod and set of headphones.
When residents hear their favorite music from bygone decades, the "come alive" with an increase in their language, movement, memory and social engagement. These scenes were very moving.
Some people might remember seeing this clip of Henry, uploaded to youtube in November 2011--three years in advance of the film's completion.
This clip of Henry's transformation went viral in the spring of 2012. Now a full-length documentary has been released in theaters and will soon be available on DVD (November 18, 2014).
Too often, people with dementia lack stimulation, which only pushes them further into detaching from the world around them. The documentary not only shows this, many experts on aging, the brain, elder care and music tell us this as well.
Dr. Bill Thomas, founder of the Eden Alternative, appears in this documentary and laments the way older adults have been warehoused away from other people and put in an overly medicalized environment. Cohen's work humanizes older adults and attends to their social, emotional and spiritual needs. The institutional nature of most elder care focuses only on their physical needs.
Music reaches into the emotional centers of the brain. When dementia damages the frontal cortex first, leaving the emotional centers of the brain intact for longer. Part of this documentary includes explanations by neurologist Dr. Oliver Sachs about the connection between music and memory.
Musicians Bobby McFerrin and Samite Mulando also punctuate this message as artists as participants. One of the most powerful scenes shows Samite playing music for Denise, a woman who then touches his head and face while he is playing. She is often brusk with her caregivers, but here she is quite tender, noting that the music Samite plays is "soothing."
According to the Alzheimer's Organization, there are more than 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer's Disease--and that number doesn't account for people with other forms of dementia. Each person with dementia struggles to maintain their relationships, identity and daily functions. They also struggle with depression.
Cohen's work demonstrates that even though people might have serious cognition problems, they still have the ability to feel joy, to access memories and to engage with the world around them.
Currently, the film is available on Netflix through livestreaming.
Books about Dementia
Movies about Alzheimer's Disease
Music Triggers Memories