Alive inside and my playlist
Last night I was thrilled to be able to see the documentary “Alive Inside” with handful of the amazing volunteers I work with at Side by Side.
In the unfolding of the movie we saw the power of music to take residents of nursing homes from uncommunicative, or angry, or despondent and bring them, if even for a little while, back alive. In the resulting conversations we saw the person inside who was locked away by the diminishing of dementia.
The thing that impressed me was that the residents responded to two kinds of music. Their own personal favorites on a shuffle which caused them to sing and dance and move. It was clear that music touched them in a deep, essential and even visceral way.
The other way they were touched by music was by a musician whose name I don’t recall but who was from the Congo. He used a variety of instruments from flutes to traditional African instruments to open the residents emotionally. He began with where he sensed they were at, be it sad or angry and played extemporaneously what reflected their mood. From there he moved them into more joyous and positive music. It stressed for me the importance of entering into a deep relationship with the people you want to reach.
It is one of the things we strive for at Side by Side and we are always looking for ways to be better at it. The ways we are changing and evolving, especially around music, is in response to the ways in which we see our participants respond to the music we offer. Truly they teach us so much.
This movie made me think about unlocking the mind. Two of our participants are struggling with aphasia and one other is practically non-verbal. We work with them individually to find what works best for them in all of our programming areas, but as the evening progressed I began to wonder, what if more of the music was from the genres, bands, composers that spoke to their life-long love of music. Would it help them open up more? Would it enhance their joy when at Side by Side? Would the benefits travel with them into their homes? We certainly can’t offer up a shuffle of personalized playlists for each of them, but what if we included their favorite songs as we moved through the day. It is certainly something to explore.
We talked about this a little in the time outside the theatre waiting for our ride to come. In fact we were so engrossed we only belated noticed that our car was parking right in front of us. That to me is a sign of an excellent presentation and of how much inspired all of us.
What was exciting also from the discussion that followed inside the theatre is how the Rotary Club is teaming with a local provider of senior care to build better residence which will appeal to the whole person, and from one of the promises made they will be undertaking to purchase enough shuffles or ipods to provide each resident in each of the nursing homes of the Bethany Care Centres with their own set of personalized music. How awesome was that?
The number of people diagnosed with dementia is growing rapidly and as the baby boomer generation ages the number of people with dementia will double in the next generation. The need for helping seniors to age well and to be able to communicate is a growing concern. With 1 in 5 women and 1 in 10 men being at risk for developing dementia this is something that we all need to be aware of. I know that I am and so are the volunteers in the programme. Many of them have been touched by dementia in their own families, and they are aware of the risks.
With those thoughts running through my mind I started thinking about what I would want on my playlist. And it would be, well, eclectic.
Today at the pool we were working out to a play list that was primarily Beach Boys and I realized that they would certainly be on my list. As would the Beatles (early stuff only) , Jazz (not modern) and Blues (also not modern) Zydeco, Roy Orbison (my very first concert attended) and Peter Paul and Mary, (my only other concert attended). (But here comes a caveat… not their version of This land is my land, I want the version with the Canadian names.) At the PPM concert we were all singing along happily until they started This Land…. We began to sing with them…but fell silent as the American chorus began. They realized they had lost us and hastily conferred, realized what country they were in and sang the “correct words” I want the “correct words” because I suspect I will be that grumpy old lady who will throw the headphones across the room if I hear wrong words. I also want to hear Canadian Singers Deep Woods, especially Charlies Coming down. Gordon Lightfoot, and even some Stomping Tom. Choral music of almost all descriptions. Baroque. Handel, secular and sacred. Bach. Beethoven, and host of other classical composers. And because we sing them every week and I love them, the oldies from Side by Side. Put on your old grey bonnet, My Bonnie, Side by Side, Music, Music, Music, Don’t sit under the apple tree, Singing in the Rain and the list goes on. I hope when I hear them I will remember the awesome participants who fill our lives with love and those amazing volunteer who give all that I ask for and even more.
And then there is the music of my faith. There is just so much. The only advice I can give to the person compiling my shuffle is to check out my hymnbook. Any hymns marked as sung more than 5 times must make the list. But if I had to name some favorites I’d have to say: Be still my soul, God of the Sparrow, Praise the Lord with the sound of the trumpet, Here I am Lord, I the Lord of Sea and Sky and the list goes on.
Then there are the praise Songs. Well I love Maranatha. It is what I listen to the the car when I can’t get CBC on the radio. Also stuff from Iona and Tazie.
Then there are the songs you just need when having a tough day. There are days when belting out the refrain from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald is just so satisfying. The same goes for These boots are made for walking. I’m just saying!
It is a good thing those shuffles hold a LOT of music.
In the meantime I give great thanks for those Health Care Centres who are planning for providing a place where the needs of the whole person are met and for those groups like Rotary who are partnering with them to make sure that Senior Care in the future will continue to grow and expand and become something we will all be grateful to be a part of.
These Centres and those who make them possible are a gift from God.