Film explores benefits of music for the elderly

Posted under Blog on September 20th, 2013 by Editorial Team / No Comments

The healing powers of music have been well documented, leading to carers and the medical community harnessing music in the treatment of those living with Alzheimer’s disease.  A documentary film, ‘Alive Inside', has also helped to put the benefits of music therapy for the elderly firmly in the spotlight. 

The film, by Michael Rossato-Bennett, explores what happens when care home patients are given iPods loaded with music from their youth.  The documentary features Dan Cohen, social worker and executive director of Music & Memory, a non-profit organization which collects and donates iPods to patients in nursing homes.   

The daughter of Henry Dryer, a 92-year old resident of the care home, shares her memories of her father, describing him as a once fun-loving man, who enjoyed singing and encouraged his children to sing along with him.

The same man that viewers first encounter in the film is very different from the carefree father of years gone by. Having been in the home for ten years, Henry sits quietly in his chair, rarely talking with fellow residents and seemingly incapable of responding to questions beyond a simple yes or now.

Recreation therapist Yvonne Russell comments: “He used to always sit on the unit with his head down….he didn’t really talk.” 

But when Henry is handed an iPod loaded with music, viewers see a different person emerge. Neurologist Dr Oliver Sacks describes Henry’s moving reaction: “Immediately he lights up. His face assumes expression, his eyes wide open …. he’s being animated by the music”.

The findings of the documentary echo those of a study by researchers at Boston University in 2010 which found that music can not only arouse dormant memories, but may also help people with dementia retain new information. 

Tags: Alzheimer's film, boston university, music and memory



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