Written and directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett, Alive Inside follows Dan Cohen on his quest to improve the lives of nursing home patients, especially those suffering from Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Presently, patients are “warehoused” and fed medications to keep them sedated and manageable, still alive physically, but asleep inside, and no longer able to enjoy life. Cohen, a social worker with a technical savvy for how mobile devices can actually benefit mankind, is the founder of Music and Memory, two words that define this film.
Cohen’s approach is based on findings of neurological scientists that (1) we are hard-wired at birth to feel the beat (literally our heart beats) and (2) the area of the brain that responds to, and recalls music, is one of the last areas of the brain to succumb to Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
Cohen visits with mainly Alzheimer’s patients, but also patients suffering from other illnesses. He identifies the music most popular in their youth; personalizes this music into an iPod playlist tailored to each patient’s interests; then puts earphones on these patients, starts their iPods, and watches what happens.
What happens is remarkable. People who are unresponsive suddenly become ALIVE INSIDE as the music awakens memories in their lives. They are happy again: smiling, talking, moving to the beat, and speaking in coherent sentences. They are remembering and enjoying life once again.
The message is clear: The Nursing Home setup we now have is a failure, and will soon be completely overwhelmed as Baby Boomers dramatically swell the ranks of those who develop dementia and Alzheimer’s. And Baby Boomers are not about to enter these Prisons for the Elderly without putting up a fight. The system has to change, and I’m convinced that Dan Cohen’s ideas will help cause a revolution in how the elderly, particularly those with the many forms of dementia, will live out their lives.
This is a remarkable film. I applaud the director, Michael Rossato-Bennett, who wrote and directed this movie. He originally agreed to film Dan Cohen for only one day as Cohen tried out his ideas in a nursing home. After seeing the results, he had the good sense to stick with Cohen, and ended up making a movie that will be hard to forget.
Alive Inside will tug at your emotions. You’ll be watching scenes that simultaneously make you smile as you watch people come alive, and just as quickly, find yourself brushing away tears of joy for seeing this happen.
I absolutely love this movie. I will be shocked if it doesn’t get an Oscar Nomination for Best Documentary Film.”