September 22, 2015 \ Rachel Jellinek
Alive Inside: A documentary about the power of music to combat senility

PopThis week I watched a wonderfully powerful documentary film entitled, “Alive Inside.” It focuses on the work of Dan Cohen and his organization, Music & Memory. Their mission is to reconnect nursing home residents with a sense of their identity through music. By creating personal music playlists on iPods and distributing them to the nursing home residents, Dan and his team work to reestablish the listeners’ connection to memories of their past and rekindle their desire and ability to connect with others in the present.

The film deftly captures the sense of isolation and withdrawal into themselves that many nursing home residents experience – whether due to dementia, loneliness, and/or being in drug-induced stupors.

It is incredible to watch the powerful transformation that occurs when a simple set of headphones is put on the residents’ heads. Many of them immediately re-engage with the world. Their eyes become alive. They start to move their bodies and dance. Some start to sing. When asked questions about their past, they are able to remember with greater facility the events, people, and music that was important to them when they were younger.

When watching the film, I couldn’t help but think about my grandfather, Pop, and the way he used to tap his feet and his hands on his knees whenever we would listen to Nat King Cole together. If he were still alive today, I definitely would be visiting him with an iPod in hand, playlist ready!

To see a really great example of one of these transformations, here is a clip of Henry, one of the nursing home residents who comes alive with music.

P.S. The baby is me. The adorable toddler is my sister.