Alzheimer’s and dementia are a reality for an increasing and often unseen population. Though well intentioned, many nursing homes are not equipped to fully meet the needs of these residents. We are left with several questions without any real or comforting answers: How do I want to age? What can we do for our loved ones? Can we do better?
The documentary Alive Inside investigates these questions and the power music has to awaken deeply locked memories. The film follows Dan Cohen, a social worker, who decides on a whim to bring iPods to a nursing home. To his and the staff’s surprise many residents suffering from memory loss seem to “awaken” when they are able to listen to music from their past. With great excitement, Dan turns to renowned neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, and we follow them both as we investigate the mysterious way music functions inside our brains and our lives.
Besides telling a moving story, it is our hope that this film will encourage widespread adoption of personalized music programs in nursing homes and outpatient therapy in homes. We hope that our film will inspire and educate the millions of people burdened by diseases that affect memory, and create a grassroots demand for this kind of low cost treatment, which could help not only patients but also caregivers across the globe. Like many films that concentrate on a simple story but echo into larger stories, we feel this film raises questions about how we as a society care for the elderly and afflicted.
Alive Inside focuses on one man’s journey, but it raises many deep questions about what it means to still be Alive Inside. It questions when we stop being human, and what it takes to re-start a life that has faded away. It asks questions about how we see our elderly, and how we are going to treat an epidemic of these degenerative diseases.
This documentary, directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett, featured at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award for U.S. Documentary.