We’d like to share an LA Times story about an uplifting documentary that shows the power music can have on elderly patients with dementia. It’s called “Alive Inside” and it was the winner of the Sundance Film Festival’s audience award for U.S. documentary in 2014.
With five million people suffering from Alzheimer’s in America, ‘Alive Inside’ is a powerful illustration of how music can reach people who were previously thought to be unreachable.
“Think of them as Lazarus moments,” writes Kenneth Turan of the LA Times. “We meet elderly people who have barely said a word in years. Then it’s like a switch has been turned on. They become, all of a sudden, gloriously happy and alive.”
The miraculous effect occurs after elderly dementia patients hear their favorite music. “There’s Alice, who so lights up on hearing ‘When the Saints Go Marching In’ that she says, ‘I didn’t know I could talk so much,’” Turan writes. “And there’s Henry, who goes from catatonic to effusive, speaking not just sentences but entire paragraphs, ‘I’m crazy about music. Cab Calloway is my No. 1 guy,’ before going into an imitation of Calloway’s patter.”
“Henry has been brought to life,” explains bestselling author Dr. Oliver Sacks in the documentary. Dr. Sacks book ‘Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain’ details how the part of the brain that remembers music is the last to be afflicted by dementia. “Music is a back door to the mind,” Sacks said. “Henry has reacquired his identity for a while.”
The project began after Dan Cohen, founder of Music & Memory, a program that helps bring music to dementia sufferers, invited filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett to join him on a visit to a nursing home. Cohen believes music exposure can help people with Alzheimer’s Disease avoid nursing homes and remain with their families longer.
“Maybe people can be raised from the almost dead,” writes Turan, “even if it has to be done one person at a time.”
Read the story here.