Faces of Music Care Part 4: Alive Inside, Henry and the iPod project

by Bev Foster

Amongst the numerous faces of music care, there is one that embodies the benefits of music  used intentionally and care-fully. It demonstrates how music makes an immediate connection to what Dr. Oliver Sacks calls the preserved self in people with dementia. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fyZQf0p73QM Henry, a 92 year old man who has spent a decade in residential care, sits motionless for much of his day until the headphones go on. Henry’s preferred music which includes Cab Calloway, has been programmed onto an ipod playlist. When he experiences the music he has known, Henry comes to life. His head lifts, his eyes become expressive and he moves to the rhythm of the music he knows. Henry’s story went viral on YouTube last year. His is part of a larger story called “Alive Inside”, a film by Michael Rossato-Bennett which chronicles social worker Dan Cohen’s discovery of the power personalized music has to awaken deeply locked memories in people with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Cohen is Founder and Executive Director of Music & Memory, a non-profit organization promoting the life-changing potential of personalized music programs in New York City. At MCC Fredericton last June, our lead partner, the Atlantic Institute on Aging (AIA), reported on their ipod study in 3 nursing homes in New Brunswick. AIA was chosen among 15 long term care facilities in North America, to participate in the pilot project by Cohen’s group. Their findings give evidence to personalized music being integrated into care practices in order to reduce agitation especially at bathtime and mealtime, provide meaning and pleasure for people suffering with dementia. This coming week on Wednesday October 10 at 1 p.m., the Alzheimer’s Society of Toronto will be presenting an exclusive screening of Alive Inside, the full documentary about the power of music in dementia care at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema. There is free admission but registration is required. Following the screening, a discussion about the film and the power of music in dementia care will be led by Andria Case of CTV News Toronto with the following panelists:

  • Dr. Heidi Ahonen Ph.D., MTA Professor of Music Therapy, Wilfred Laurier University Faculty of Music.
  • Donna Cansfield, MPP Etobicoke Centre Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Finance and calling for the Legislative Assembly of Ontario to establish an Alzheimer’s Advisory Council to advise the Minister of Health and Long Term Care.
  • Bev Foster, BEd, BMus, ARCT, AMus Founder and Executive Director of Room 217 Foundation, a registered charity dedicated to caring for people with music, and organizer of the Toronto Music Care Conference.
  • Dr. Morris Freedman MD, FRCPC Professor, Dept. of Medicine (Neurology) University of Toronto; Director, Behavioural Neurology Section, Div. of Neurology, U of T; Head, Division of Neurology, Baycrest; Executive Medical Director, Centre for Memory and Neurotherapeutics, Baycrest; Scientist, Rotman Research Institute, Baycrest.
  • Michael Rossato-Bennett Alive Inside, Director and Producer – Ximotion Media.
  • Dan Cohen, MSW Founder and Executive Director of Music & Memory, a non-profit organization promoting the life-changing potential of personalized music programs.

    Room 217 Foundation is always pleased to share stories of Music Care.  For more stories of care, check out our website at www.room217.ca