Alive Inside-The Film

Originally posted in on April 8, 2014 by Pauline Morris, MSW, RSW, social worker with Elder Caring and guest blogger:

We are all meeting and assisting seniors in our practices, and working with the caregivers of those who are not so well. Communicating with them can be a major barrier. Many of our clients face or are living with dementia. I’m sure we all think about that for our friends and families frequently, even as we consider what we would want for ourselves. I know that I do.

I’m privileged to have as a client a 97-year-old woman, now living in an attentive retirement home. She struggles with deafness, dementia and all the isolation and fearfulness that accompany extreme age and disability. But she is comforted by music and spirituality. In many settings, a person like this would be offered group music therapy or visits from performers, but would not have any access to this source of joy individually; and a deaf person cannot appreciate it fully. So I was delighted to see a documentary film this week that gives us a wonderful solution. Check out to see some parts of the film ALIVE INSIDE. It won a prize at Sundance last year for the director Michael Rossato-Bennett. It shows how music can reach even the most deteriorated mind, making connections and bringing someone back into the world.

So here’s the idea: bring personalized music to an I-pod, get good headphones, and let them listen. The results are astonishing. The Alzheimer Society of Toronto has grabbed the idea and created The I-Pod Project, where, on application, they will loan out the equipment and personalize it; in fact the Society has 10,000 units overall now, and has already placed over 1000, for free, to seniors in Toronto. Contact the Alzheimer’s Society. if you want more information. If you have an I-pod or MP3 player that you don’t need, the Alzheimer Society could use it.

But you can do this yourself as well, as I am doing for my client. If you know someone who has dementia, ask about the music they loved or was significant in their lives, and see what happens when you play it through headphones. Even if they seem very disconnected or disoriented, you’ll be amazed at how much energy and joy emerges. And thanks for listening.

Pauline Morris, MSW RSW

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