The Power of Music


In the powerful documentary “Alive Inside,” Henry is a resident of a nursing home who continually sits in the same position, motionless, and hardly talks. His connection with the outside world, and with his own identity, is frayed and slipping away. Typical methods of treatment for seniors who have problems engaging or remembering tend to fall short, as they mostly involve rotating medications.

However, once music was reintroduced to Henry his entire world opened up explosively. With assistance from his daughter, music was compiled from the formative years of Henry’s life that he absolutely adored. One day, he was given headphones through which his favorite songs were playing.

Once Henry began listening to the music, his body became animated as he bounced and swayed to the music. This once despondent man lit up and his eyes completely opened as he was transported back in time to the first instance he heard his favorite Cab Calloway song. After a few minutes of listening to the music Henry was asked some questions by the staff at his facility.

Normally, Henry has difficulty responding at all. At best, he would grunt or say a whispered singular word. Right after listening to his music, though, Henry would respond in full sentences as he described his favorite music from when he was a teenager and beyond. He recalled the school dances where his affinity for music grew, and he burst into song at the mention of Cab Calloway as tears rolled down his cheeks.

Music isn’t merely an art form or an entertaining pastime – it’s a unique tool that unlocks memories and cognitive function, often with incredible results. The documentary “Alive Inside” demonstrates this ability of music to penetrate to the core of seniors to engage their personality and bring awareness and joy to their lives. According to esteemed Dr. Kerry Burnight, “There is no drug with more effectiveness than the impact of music on neural stimulation.”

“Alive Inside” follows social worker Dan Cohen, who attempts music therapy on several different senior patients with dementia. The Hollywood Reporter raved that the film was “A gloriously inspirational film documenting music’s healing power in Alzheimer patients.”

But Cohen wasn’t in it for the exposure or the reviews – his nonprofit organization MUSIC & MEMORY steadfastly believes that the transformative power of music can vastly improve the quality of life of any senior in a nursing home. Ideally, Cohen wishes that the use of music therapy would become standard practice within the healthcare community.

Music truly holds some of the keys to activating dementia patients and helping them reclaim parts of their identity by accessing memories lying dormant below the surface. As MUSIC & MEMORY describes, “these musical favorites tap deep memories not lost to dementia and can bring participants back to life, enabling them to feel like themselves again, to converse, socialize and stay present.”

By creating custom playlists of a senior’s favorite music, the workers at MUSIC & MEMORY touch lives and help seniors suffering from memory problems to reconnect with their patients. We made custom music video playlists a priority on the GrandPad so that seniors can also quickly access their favorite tunes in just a few taps. Learn more about music and other benefits the GrandPad provides here.