Music is a highly potent force in the human experience. It has the ability to activate more parts of the brain than any other stimulus, according to the late Oliver Sacks, MD, a neurologist and author of Musicophilia. “Music,” Sacks said, “can lift us out of depression or move us to tears; it is a remedy, a tonic, orange juice for the ear.”
Proof of this potency was never more evident than in the award-winning 2014 documentary, Alive Inside, which beautifully illustrates how music can break through memory loss in individuals living with dementia and stir a spirit within. In the film, Director and Producer Michael Rossato-Bennett takes us inside the minds of people living with dementia, who, when given the music of their choosing, are awakened and moved to tears and laughter as they remember melodies and words as if their disease had not stolen a single moment from them.
Rossato-Bennett is now working on Alive Inside 2—a follow-up feature film that takes a deeper look at human connections and personalized music by focusing on the unique relationship between elders and children. He describes it as a story of hope and connection on a larger scale: “Alive Inside 2 is about what happens when we explore the deeper pathways within us,” he says. “It plays with the importance of wisdom through education, intergenerational relationships, and music.”
Although the film will not be complete until later in the year, Rossato-Bennett will reveal snippets of Alive Inside 2 when he joins Dr. Bill Thomas starting in March on the 2016 Age of Disruption tour. The 30-city expedition will debut a sneak peak of the upcoming film as part of a community engagement workshop called Disrupt Dementia.
A vital component of the tour, the Disrupt Dementia workshop is the first of its kind designed for people living with dementia and focused on what they have to offer their communities, says Thomas, who founded the innovative Green House Project and Eden Alternative models of long term care reform.
“We’re not coming to town as experts to teach people about dementia,” Thomas says. “We’re bringing an opportunity for communities to learn from the true experts– from people who are still alive, still valued members of society who can teach us what it means to live with a diagnosis of dementia.”
The objective of Disrupt Dementia is to engage the local community in each city via schools, churches, senior centers and more, in an effort to awaken individuals to the deep connections that can be made by coming together around music, elders, and youth.
Alive Inside 2 will be integral to this effort, says Rosatto-Bennett. He and his Disrupt Dementia accomplices want to change society’s perception of dementia by combining the “most innocent parts of our culture” to create connections that tap into the wisdom of intergenerational dynamics that have been removed from our society.
“As human beings, we really want to connect, but there are so many forces in the world trying to make us disconnect,” he says. “What if you combine those with dementia and young people from toddler-age to middle school? There’s real magic there.”
Indeed, there is magic in that formula. Since the first film, Rossato-Bennett has created a nonprofit organization, the Alive Inside Foundation, that is running17 pilot programs that bring together school-age kids and elders to learn about aging, dementia, and the power of personalized music. Alive Inside 2 will explore the connections and learning that take place as a result of the pilot programs.
If the first half of workshop is about the magic of music and connections, the second half is about engagement and discourse. Continuing the theme of making connections and creating community, this portion of the workshop is designed in collaboration with people living dementia and co-lead by Jennifer Carson, Ph.D., a pioneer in the field of authentic partnership research, and Kyrié Carpenter, M.A., anti-ageism activist and counselor, to give voice to and empower people living with cognitive change.
At each stop of the tour, Jennifer Kyrié will invite people to consider the images they have about dementia, about people living with dementia, and some of the actions that their communities may take when asked to reconsider how to best care for people living with dementia.
If you would like to help support the tour, Dr. Thomas is currently organizing local community outreach workgroups in all 30 cities to guide outreach and help engage with as many people as possible. Contact the Tour here to sign up.