Music and Memory, helps people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias tap into their deeper selves–those parts of the brain starving for music.

The hills were alive at Tanglewood this weekend with violin virtuoso Leonidas Kavakos and consummate cellist Yo Yo Ma.

So much Tchaikovsky, so little time.

 Earlier that afternoon I watched scores of older picnickers quietly conduct the whole performance with their own hands hanging freely off the end of their lawn chair armrests, while gently keeping time with their well-heeled feet on the beautifully manicured grounds, heads swaying happily underneath straw hats and colorful canopies.   Alive outdoors, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is one of the great musical wonders of the world. Last week, “Alive Inside,” the award winning documentary film that vividly demonstrates the healing power of music on individuals with dementia, stopped in Massachusetts as part of its nationwide tour. I don’t recall ever taking notes in a movie house before, but it was just that compelling.  I strongly recommend you find time to experience the film on the big screen.  Here’s the schedule and the trailer.

Why I Loved Alive Inside

Proud to be a social worker, I also recommend “Alive Inside” because it brilliantly answers that pesky question, “What do social workers do?” Dan Cohen, MSW, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, helps people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias tap into their deeper selves–those parts of the brain starving for music.  The beauty of Dan’s approach is that it begs thoughtful questions about the impact of culture change on medical models of care. We listen to Dr. Oliver Sacks, Bobby McFerrin, and Dr. Bill Thomas discussing the neuroscience of personalized playlists, as resident after resident has an out-of-body experience listening to music while lying in bed or confined to a wheelchair.  Finally, we see staff caregivers moved to tears, and family members overcome their fears about how to visit with loved ones.

No More TV

I often fantasize about the TV-free hospital, skilled nursing facility, or assisted living community.  Research shows that too much TV is associated with obesity, decreased concentration and anxiety in children.  Among older adults, it is linked to insomnia, roommate disagreements and inactivity. While my fantasy may never come true, a little more music will go a long way toward healthy outcomes and happy hearts.  For this, we should thank the creative team of “Alive Inside.”  Even better, we ought to consider Music & Memory’s certification program for our person-centered initiatives, which people like Dan Cohen and many others imagine will become a standard of care in the not so distant future. Sarah

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