It was the late 1800s when Americans began placing our elders out of sight and mind and into the asylum. Throughout the 1900s, Americans began to improve the living conditions and provided our aging retirees with the modern nursing home, however, today’s mentality towards the elderly has not changed much. Because of this interactive disconnect, as Alzheimer’s patients tend to withdraw inside of themselves and their condition, often communication is almost impossible. Based off curiosity, Dan Cohen, a social worker of New York, began to see the connection between the human mind and music. He realized that by bringing his iPod into nursing homes and reintroducing patients to their childhood music, he was bringing them back to a degree of awareness.
Alive Inside is a heartwarming documentary, directed Michael Rossato-Bennett that follows the eye-opening examination of this breakthrough and the struggle to find support for such a burgeoning number of dementia patients (to put it in perspective, by 2024 the number will have double to 10 million). In the midst of such a depressing subject, the patients of the film instill hope in the possibility of establishing the connection. We are introduced to unforgettable people. Denise is a bipolar schizophrenic who’s every emotion is fully felt and expressed and leaves her walker after relying on it for two years to dance with Dan Cohen to Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria.’
I couldn’t help but have a hand to my heart when I watched Henry, a withdrawn and unresponsive dementia patient who would only replied, “Yes,” or “No,” with his head down. After listening to an old hymn, he raised his head, eyes opened wide, and began to hum and sway to the music. When asked what his favorite song was growing up, there was no hesitation in his perfect rendition of ‘I’ll be Home for Christmas.’ He was talkative, going on about the beauty of music, and was alive inside and out.
The film is fast paced, never allowing you to reflect on one patient too long before introducing you to another. The only thing I felt it lacked were statistics on the patients that showed improvement but they’ve only been at this study for a few years so you can’t judge too harshly. The narration was sometimes a little cheesy, but it was helpful in keeping the audience geared towards the positive aspect that although these people had been lost within themselves, they were finding a way out. With 5 million dementia patients in America, we all have to know somebody with this condition and I encourage every one of you to seek out this film with a box of Kleenex in tow. I heard from someone in the Alzheimer’s Association that the film may be on Netflix around August. It’s just a rumor but it’s a great one.