Music and Memory - Changing Lives




Something a little different today...




My eyes have been teary all afternoon.  Happy tears.  Tears of appreciation.  I had the opportunity to photograph a dueling piano show at an assisted living care center.  What an amazing thing to see!  I've often been anxious and scared of visiting nursing homes because I didn't know what to say or do to someone there feeling sad or lonely.  Well, the answer is quite apparent now.  It's music.  I don't know the last time I saw a room so full of life, love, and gratitude as I did today at Alta Ridge Assisted Living Center in Sandy.  Music changes lives.  And more than that, music gives life.




Look at these faces.  THIS is living.





The idea of music having an impact on lives isn't a new idea, that's why musicians do what they do.  But when a documentary was featured in the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, it inspired Kirk Garrett and Rich Wyman to play piano in assisted living centers.  Rich said in his newsletter, "I saw a film called "Alive Inside" about a man who visits Nursing homes and plays iPods to people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer disease. When they listen to music they are brought to life and filled with joy. That is what I want to do with these shows."







Kirk's description was "Its an an amazing experience I can hardly describe. Seeing sparks of enthusiasm in the elderly, many suffering from Alzheimers and Dementia is absolutely awe-inspiring."








And when I watched clips from the documentary a few weeks ago, I was incredibly moved.  One of my last memories of my Grandpa is him dancing around to big band music and telling me about how he used to teach swing dance lessons.  I already knew, of course, because he taught me in my kitchen when I was about 8 years old.  We smiled when he told the story, though - he had Alzheimer's and the story always stopped for a few minutes when he would ask Grandma "what was the name of my dance partner?"  And then 5 minutes later "ahhh!  Shannon.  Her name was Shannon."  And ten minutes later, still as happy as can be listening to the music "Shannon!  Yes, her name was Shannon."   While dealing with the frustration of Alzheimer's, he wasn't always happy.  I believe the music made a huge difference.  So I jumped on board to the Alive Inside movement.  I support what they are doing and I want to be involved.





There are 3 things I've decided I can do to make a difference:


1. The first was obvious - Bring music to my grandmother.  I emailed my mom to get a list of Grandma's favorite songs, and I have an ipod and headphones ready for her.


2. Take photos, videos, and share them.  If I document the look on these beautiful older faces as they light up listening to the music, then I remind anyone who sees these photos of the joy that music brings.  This became real for me today.  Looking through the photos hours later, and the spark of enthusiasm is just as apparent as it was in the room.  This is why my eyes have been teary :)


3. I can share music with the older people in my life or visit nursing homes and meet new people!  Recorded or live music - I can bring ipods, play the piano, and start a sing-a-longs.





I'm excited to meet people, and experience their excitement towards life through music with them.  One of my new friends from today is Darlene.




She is 50 years older than me, looks absolutely beautiful, and she is full of wisdom, lessons, and love.  Darlene and I talked before, during (where she sat the whole hour with that brilliant smile on her face!), and after the show, as I said goodbye, she said something that shaped my perspective on the day.  And I'm writing this quote from memory here, but it's pretty darn close. “Every night when I say my prayers I tell God if there’s a place for me in heaven now, I’m ready to go.  But I’m still here, so there must be some reason it’s not my time yet.  But this – what you’re doing here with this music – is like heaven.  A whole century of memories coming back to me.  Well, almost, three quarters of a century anyway.  I just love you.  And I hope you’ll come back.”









Click here to check out the website for Alive Inside.  But don't just read about it or think about it, share music with your parents and grandparents and see what a difference you can make.









Everyone loved the music.  Some even loved having their photo taken!  What a beautiful experience.  Incredible people.  And powerful music.  Thank you Rich and Kirk!