Alive Inside: Music Brings Back Memories and Dignity

Music&Memory3I discovered Alive Inside, the Sundance award-winning documentary film that demonstrates the power that music can exercise over memory loss, a few months ago when my husband and I shared an amazing experience attending the Second Wind Tour. This nationwide traveling extravaganza that Dr. Bill Thomas organized to launch Second Wind, his new book about aging and the importance of living in deeper and more thoughtful ways, included a partial screening of Alive Inside (check out the trailer below), and I left the event in greater awe of music than ever before. That’s saying a lot because I’m a lifelong musician.

Alive Inside

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Alive Inside, Michael Rossato-Bennett’s documentary film, tells the story of a man’s determination to try a new kind of therapy with patients experiencing severe memory loss. Dan Cohen gives iPods personalized with music to people with severe memory impairment, and then watches how they listen and respond.The results, you see them right there on the screen, are astonishing.

The fragile people, mostly elders, listening to the music begin to react, interact, and even talk about experiences that the music reawakens. They associate the music with memories that often come rushing back and often with each individual’s ability to talk about the memories. Cohen pursues his projects against considerable odds — namely a healthcare system that treats aging as a medical problem rather than a time of life. Continue reading

Will Robots Take Care of Us When We’re Old?

Personal robots groupTake a few minutes to read a May 2014 Chicago Tribune article, An Army of Robots May Soon be Deployed to Care for the Elderly. This piece, written by Reuters columnist Mark Miller, explores how robots may be able to perform certain tasks to support elders who can’t aways do those tasks for themselves. Innovating with robots is a much-discussed idea in the technology and caregiving communities because so many boomers are aging into their senior and eventually elder years when they will require extra support.

How much of a role will robots play? The May 2014 Tribune article posits that they may play a significant one, if only because the need for caregiving jobs will rise steeply while the people to fill those jobs will rise negligibly. Author Mark Miller also quotes Cynthia Breaseal, who heads the Personal Robots Group at the MIT media lab, pointing out that many people appear to form emotional attachments with social robots. To see some of the other robots that the group is developing, check out the the MIT lab by clicking on the image above.                       Continue reading

Remembering an Elder Mom Who Deeply Disliked Dependence

Made with Festisite.com.

Made with Festisite.com.

If you are not a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog, take a few minutes to read the post by Perry Klass, M.D., She Wasn’t So Ungrateful After All. Dr. Klass, a pediatrician and a writer, penned this May 27, 2014 remembrance of her mother, Sheila Solomon Klass, also a writer, who lost much of her sight and needed the support of her adult children. Actually Dr. Klass’ essay was more than a remembrance. It was a tribute.

If you are a regular reader of The New York Times New Old Age blog you probably did read Mrs. Klass’ (the mom not the physician) 2013 blog post, A Very Ungrateful Old Lady, vividly describing her frustration as well as the challenges she faced as she increasingly depended on the support of her adult children. If you did not read it, please do. Mrs. Klass died about six months after her article was published.

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Roz Chast’s Graphic Novel: Serious Humor for Adult Children Caretakers

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This morning I am going to One More Page, my local independent book store, to purchase Roz Chast’s new graphic novel, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

I’ve never read a graphic novel, although I frequently pass by them in local independent book stores. Today, however, I will buy the book and explore this new-to-me genre, really a graphic memoir, because I love Roz Chast. More personally, however, I am deeply involved, by choice, with supporting and occasionally caring for aging parents. As Chast shares her experiences and challenges, doing so with humor and pain, I recognize much of what she depicts.

This cartoonist’s elegant work, mostly in the New Yorker, is synonymous with tongue-in-cheek observation. No matter what topic Roz Chast chooses to illustrate, a viewer laughs and thinks, though not necessarily in that order.              Continue reading

Happy Mother’s Day 2014, Mom

My mom and me in late 1952.

My mom and me in late 1952.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom! I know you are a bit frustrated by a few health issues right now, but I hope you know how much we all admire and love you.

In all these years, as far as I can tell, you’ve never encountered a subject that you don’t want to learn more about. Sometimes when I think about you, I just lean back and marvel at your drive and intellectual capacity. Every time we talk, you tell me about what you’ve learned by working on your computer, sharing at the book club, attending a peace and justice meeting, listening to music at the Bach Festival, or working hard in a committee you serve on at one organization or another. Or maybe I arrive and more plants are in the garden, so I know that you’ve been working out there.

Mom, Her Mom, and Me - 1973

Mom, Her Mom, and Me – 1973

Of course these days you tire more easily, but you are learning to pace yourself so you can do the the things you like to do.

Do you have any idea, over the years, just how many people you have registered to vote, all told? Hundreds, I bet. Of course, we all treasure the picture of you and President Obama (well he wasn’t quite the president at that point). But then you were one of the super-volunteers in the Shenandoah Valley, so active in politics and always willing to take on extra jobs. Then last year you were active in the governor’s election, and one day there you were pictured with former President Bill Clinton when he came to campaign for the candidate. Continue reading

Grandma by Jessica Shepherd: A Book Review


Grandma book

Recently I discovered a children’s book, Grandma, that tells a story, from a child’s point of view, about a much-loved grandmother who develops dementia. As an educator, I’ve often thought about the need for books that help children understand the disease while illustrating how to continue to love and support a family member who experiences dramatic memory changes. Only now, years after my family lost my husband’s mother to this terrible brain disease, are children’s books that address dementia beginning to appear.

Grandma, an easy-to-read picture book written and illustrated by Jessica Shepherd, fits the bill. Young Oscar shares his thoughts about his grandmother, describing the fun they have, the fond ways they interact, and the changes that have come about since she “started forgetting a lot of things.” He describes how she lives in a new community, with caregivers, and tells about his visits.

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