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Alive Inside

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaB5Egej0TQ

     

Social worker Dan Cohen is a truly wonderful human being. This beautifully emotive documentary follows Cohen’s ground-breaking quest to bring people who suffer with Alzheimer’s, back to life. How does he achieve this? Music therapy. Cohen travels to nursing homes across America where he discovers the music that the person used to listen to in their youth and makes them, simply creates a personalised playlist, downloads it onto an iPod, plugs in headphone, puts them on the patient and the result is this: magic. You see people who were previously in a catatonic state unable to recall any single part of their lives yet they hear that music and they are instantly taken back, transported to a time in their youth where the memories and connections are so strong – the music gives them the gift of remembering. Almost instantly, they are dancing, singing along to the lyrics of the song and not only that, but they are suddenly able to recall dates, friend’s names, the places they visited, tell stories full of amazing detail whereas seconds before they couldn’t have recognised a picture of their younger selves if you showed it to them. Cohen correctly states that “music connects people with who they have been and who they have been and who they are in their lives. It’s what happens when you get old, is all the things you deal with and your identity is being peeled away.” With one man, Henry, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, what unfolded he second he first that first second of music was just astounding. His eyes went wide, like he was waking up, alive again and then he could remember. Henry reacquired his identity for a while through the power of music and as Cohen beautifully says, “We connected with Henry. We connected with Henry’s self. All of a sudden everything falls into place. You’re right there with the music. It’s pleasurable. You’re not thinking about anything else, you’re not struggling.” This incredible display of escapism moved me to tears, witnessing all the people’s reactions when their self’s returns to them is just remarkable and an example of just pure creative thinking. The music enables the person to escape from the disease that has shackled their mind and viciously ripped their memories and their identity from them and the music opens a back door to the mind, where suddenly remembering becomes possible again and that is simply beautiful. Millions all around lose their connection to life, suffering with illnesses that rob the infected of their memories and Cohen gives their lives back to them for a short while – “I mean isn’t this desire, a desire to awaken another person to what they are, to what they could be, a deep part of being human?” This statement from Cohen really affected me. Therapy of this nature should be practised globally, why wouldn’t we want to give back what little life we can to those who have lost so much? With the government refuses to fund Cohen’s intentions to provide this music therapy to the 12,000 nursing home in America, he decided he would do it himself and started reaching out to anyone and everyone he could think could help. After the director of this documentary released the clip of Henry listening to the music and the reaction it gets from him, it spread like wildfire, receiving millions of views on YouTube, and with that gaining so much support for Cohen’s cause. This proves that music possesses the power to achieve amazing things within the mind, and where the idea of self-expression and experiencing joy again were deemed almost impossible, music makes it a reality. This music therapy causes stimulation and communication and awakens the spirit of the individual in such a way that you just become in awe of them. It’s amazing what the mind is capable of music is introduced and that wonderful connection is established. “We need music. It awakens in us our most profound safety. The safety of living in concert with each other and our own selves.” A woman called Marylou, who had been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s says, “It can’t get away from me if I’m in this place.”, thus showing that the strong sense of security that the music brings them as they are reminded of their life is so comforting and the emotion it pulls from all the people who experience this is just profound. Cohen closes the telling of this captivating story with the most heart-warming words, “We’re gonna bring life into the places where it’s been forgotten and together we will listen.” Awareness for these diseases and these creative forms of therapy that are so simple but have life altering effects essential for allowing these those suffering to live again.

Natasha Perkin

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