How Music and Dementia changed my life!

You probably think there is nothing you can learn from Dementia.

I get that. That is what I thought, and then I started making the film “Alive Inside” and starting The Alive Inside Movement.

Music and elders living with Dementia changed my life.

They convinced me we humans are vibratory creatures. In the film (on Netflix) that idea got put out there, but now my team and I are playing with this idea in the real world. We have chosen as our battlegrounds the twin wastelands of our aging and our schools.

Imagine youth inspired to wake adults who are lost and suffering. Imagine asking them to be wiser than doctors and their teachers. Yes, we are saying, as individuals, as institutions, even as countries, we might be best served following music!

Joe Brewer compares our present system to a cancer and makes a compelling case. It does feel like we are all fighting for our lives. In the last 40 years planet earth has lost 50% of all its species, so in a very real way this “Cancer” is “killing” us.

Personally, I don't have the answers, but here is my singular observation-

First, the way we got into this mess was through our obsession with the  power of objectification. When we turned life and the world into things, through language and ownership, it let us do amazing stuff. We pushed back the darkness, and expelled the beasts from around our villages.  We should be wildly proud of this accomplishment, but… we might have gone too far.

When I first met elders with Alzheimer’s disease I was terrified. Their forebrain is gone. This condition is just terrible, no arguing that, but there is something interesting about it too. If you get the chance to look inside an elder with dementia,  with empathy and open channels… They can make you feel things you haven’t felt in a long while.

You see, they are adults you've never met before- adults with no agenda- no guile- adults without the ability to lie. This is not usual. It took me a long while to see them like I see babies, in a way.  Both are vulnerable, and wise in a way we have forgotten about. I know this sounds crazy, but they began to teach me. Seriously.

The first thing they taught me, and what they can teach you is- how to listen to music deeper than you have ever done before- Imagine listening to your music with your whole being, your whole body, as if your very survival depends on it… like their survival does. This was a big thing to learn. You should try it. Get your music. Turn out the lights. Listen to your music. Listen, as if your life depends on it.

It blew me away that someone with Dementia had something to teach me, something to teach our young people.

They taught me- about the wisdom and intelligence not contained in our forebrain.

I love our forebrain, but just look around- it's spinning out of control.  We have created systems that are polluting our bloodstreams, diminishing our freedoms, abandoning our elders, and enslaving our children. Unbelievably, we are doing it to ourselves! Maybe we could listen to something else for a bit?

I think our new communal safety must come through some re-embodiment of life itself. This exploration is what I am working on in my small life, and I think it is possible for us to do this together! Think about it, we’ve solved many of the big problems- Like, how to make enough food, defeat disease, and stop war, right?  Wow, we deserve a gold medal!

What if we stop furiously fighting for our survival, just for a second?

What if we were to become best friends again with life- to listen to it’s music again?

Brewer’s cancer illustration is apt, our forebrain, and the systems it has created, have forgotten how to listen to life- and Life is the host body of everything.

This is why The Alive Inside Movement is following music, and the weakest and the discarded among us. Within music, life and aging there is Wisdom, hidden, like a redheaded stepchild. We are trying to awaken the genetic wisdom we know but choose to ignore, the wisdom buried within all of us.  

What Music and Dementia have taught me fills me with hope. Music has always modeled for us a way to live in harmony and polyphony- to dance through life, with fun and meaning! 

We need to dance to a new song, or perhaps an old song. The clock is ticking. At this late date, it is not enough to change our laws or our economic thinking. We need to change the very ways we find and conceive of safety.

For millennia now we have been thinking of life as a thing, and ourselves as things. The Buddha called this pain of living as a thing, this pain of living disconnected from life- suffering. You can see it in our nursing homes, in our schools, in our disconnected kids and in the slavery we create.

Change, glorious change is coming! It will be beautiful… eventually.

Change will not come through politics alone. We see every day the movements of the mind getting hijacked! We live in a sea of nonsense. The solution to me is simple-

We must heal our relationship to life. This means rethinking our footprint and rethinking the ways we create safety! (And I don't think our wonderful forebrains alone will get us there!) I think it means realizing- God is life. 

I hope, in this hunt for a new safety, we can listen to the wisdom of music, connection, and aging- they are our most trusted teachers.

Have you thought about what are you listening to?


Michael Rosatto-Bennett
Director- Alive Inside
Executive Director- The Alive Inside Foundation

Help us fight Ageism,
and create human connection
for elders living with Alzheimer's 
and for ourselves!

*A special note from the Alive Inside Foundation staff:

Thank you for joining us! In the months to come, you will be hearing from our community partners engaged with the Alive Inside Movement all over the United States.  This intergenerational program is the first of its kind – a transformational human service learning project that focuses on training youth to interact with elders living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias- through music.  The Alive Inside Movement empowers youth through empathy training, dementia simulations, meditation, music detecting and other creative learning activities that help them “re-think” their worldview and what it means to age in 21st Century America.