Musician honors Mother with Alzheimer's

My name is Jonny and this is my Mom.

I remember when I first found out about Alive Inside.

It was the summer of 2016, and I stumbled on a video of an elderly man with dementia putting on a pair of headphones. Within seconds of hearing music from his childhood, his expression brightened and he began to talk and sing along.

As wild as that video is, I can’t say that it surprised me. When I look back on my life so far, I often divide it into chapters based on whatever style of music I was into at that time. Music is powerful - certain songs have the power to not only invoke certain memories, but also the feelings that go along with them.

How wild is that?

Me playing our family organ around 1987-88


In the summer of 2016 I started writing this album. It was around that time that my mom referred to me as “that other guy” because she had forgotten my of those dreaded milestones in the progression of Alzheimer’s Disease. I knew it was time to start the hard work of processing what was happening, and I knew the greatest tool in my arsenal was going to be music.


Over the next 4 years, my songs became my safe place to grieve and explore all the varied emotions that go along with losing a loved one to Alzheimer’s. But it wasn’t all sadness - some songs, such as Pots & Pans, would evoke joy and laughter as I looked back on fond memories of my childhood that my mom helped create. I began to realize that although my mom was losing these memories, these happy events were still very real and formed me into who I am today.

My mom, dad, and I on Christmas mid 90s


This past year I set out to compile all our home video footage and create a visual experience to accompany the music. Turns out we have a pretty vast library of footage that ranges from the 1960s to today. This part of the project added a whole new dimension to my understanding of my mom, dad, and siblings. These glimpses of the past reminded me of the happy-go-lucky child I once was, how wonderful my family is, and how vital a role my mom played in it.


This album may never win a Grammy, but it is something I’m so proud to present to you today. Although my mom passed before I was able to give her the final product, my own spirit has healed so much because of it.

My hope is that this album awakens old memories in you, and that it reminds you to cling to the joys of your past and let them inspire your present and future.  

Me on the last day of recording; taken by John Boyle (upright bass)


Thank you so much for reading and listening. Please consider purchasing the album and streaming it on your favorite service (links below) as 33% of the proceeds will go to Alive Inside to further their work caring for our elders. 

Thank you, Alive Inside, for your encouragement, help, and for doing all that you do!

Jonny Gerber (Malingo)



iTunes/Apple Music:


Amazon Music:

Google Play:


Note from Alive Inside:

This is a beautiful project!  Please watch the video Jonny made.  As a filmmaker, I really appreciate it!

Love to you all,

Michael Rossato-Bennett
Executive Director

Do you love Classical Music?

I love music...
You love music...

But do you love Classical music?

Apparently, only 3% of people love Classical music.
I believe I can help you fall in love with Classical music.


Here' what you do: 

  1. Watch this AMAZING Ted talk by Benjamin Zander
  2. Watch this AMAZING animation 

Then, you will love Classical music.

If it doesn't work- let me know!


In the Music,

In the Quarantine,

Michael Rossato-Bennett
Executive Director AliveInside.Org

How Music Helps Adults with Alzheimer’s Disease



Loneliness and disconnection effect all our lives- We can help!

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Best wishes from the Alive Inside kids- all over the world!


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A story of beauty and endings...


Rosine and Pauline spending time together

Rosine and Pauline spending time together.


At the Alive Inside Foundation, we want to empower as many people as possible to experience connecting with our forgotten elders. 

A few days ago, in our newsletter, we shared a picture of, Pauline, a student, sharing time with an 89-year-old Mexican/French woman named Rosine.
The same day the newsletter went out, we learned Rosine passed.  
This affected all of us.  Here are the words of the volunteers who worked with Rosine- 

First, Pauline's teacher, Bernadette:

"Life is fragile and immense.
It's like music.
It fascinates us in it's mystery- as soon as we approach it, it vanishes away.
Today, after three months of visiting and sharing time and favorite songs with the elders, we received sad news.
Rosine, the beautiful 89 years old Mexican French woman, who every time she saw my student, would say

... "Oh Pauline ... my music!" 

... has passed away.
We all feel very sad for her loss.

At the same time, we feel deeply grateful for the opportunity to see her die in peace, full and happy.
During her last months, Rosine and Paulina made a beautiful bond.
Through time, storytelling, music and Paulina´s presence, Rosine recovered part of her history and identity.
She smiled and enjoyed life again.
Every time she listened to her songs, she was transformed.
Every time she saw Paulina, she knew she would experience something good.
She made Paulina her confidant, her friend.
In our last visit, Paulina gave her a photo album of their experience.
Rosine was happy.  Some of the pages from the book Pauline made Rosine are below.
This experience was possible due to the support of these generous institutions:
Iberoamerican University, Bringas Haghenbeck Foundation, and The Alive Inside Foundation. Thank you all.

We are who we are because someone trusted in us. 

                                                          -Bernadette González

Sharing stories and favorite songs!

Sharing stories and favorite songs!

Pauline's words:

"Rosine was a very intelligent woman, full of such complex qualities that even with all the time in the world,
it would be impossible to finish knowing her or finish learning from her.

When I heard the news today, I was stunned, I did not know what to think.

She left me a lot of good things which I find difficult to express. 
Due to our different perspectives, she opened my mind and provoked thoughts I have never considered. 
In our life, people pass by without us realizing what they have to offer, or what we can offer to them.

I am glad to have met her and helped her achieve a more positive vision of her life. 
It will be very difficult to forget her since she marked our lives, making her unforgettable. 
I listened to her experience in life and now I understand there is no way to describe her.
She was an exceptional and wonderful woman, full of courage, talent, charisma, happiness, and intelligence.

To be with her caused me a great emotion,
I felt we had plenty of time to be together and endlessly talk or listen to music.
I was wishing to be always near her without paying attention to time.

Today, I can only thank Rosine for everything she taught me, and for all the questions she provoked in me.

I will miss you,

              Paulina González Luna Ruiz"

Page one of the book Pauline made- 'The story of Rosine's life..."

Page one of the book Pauline made for Rosine- 'The story of Rosine's life..."

Rosine, you have been loved,
you will be missed!

How to Love: Legendary Zen Buddhist Teacher Thich Nhat Hanh on Mastering the Art of “Interbeing” by Brainpickings

This edited Blog is by Brainpickings, we are sharing it because it is about all we are really trying to accomplish at the Alive Inside Foundation.

(How to love, how to master "Interbeing,") that’s what legendary Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh (b. October 11, 1926) explores in How to Love (public library).

To receive his teachings one must make an active commitment not to succumb to the Western pathology of cynicism, our flawed self-protection mechanism that readily dismisses anything sincere and true as simplistic or naïve — even if, or precisely because, we know that all real truth and sincerity are simple by virtue of being true and sincere.

At the heart of Nhat Hanh’s teachings is the idea that “understanding is love’s other name” — that to love another means to fully understand his or her suffering. (“Suffering” sounds rather dramatic, but in Buddhism it refers to any source of profound dissatisfaction — be it physical or psychoemotional or spiritual.) Understanding, after all, is what everybody needs — but even if we grasp this on a theoretical level, we habitually get too caught in the smallness of our fixations to be able to offer such expansive understanding. He illustrates this mismatch of scales with an apt metaphor:

If you pour a handful of salt into a cup of water, the water becomes undrinkable. But if you pour the salt into a river, people can continue to draw the water to cook, wash, and drink. The river is immense, and it has the capacity to receive, embrace, and transform. When our hearts are small, our understanding and compassion are limited, and we suffer. We can’t accept or tolerate others and their shortcomings, and we demand that they change. But when our hearts expand, these same things don’t make us suffer anymore. We have a lot of understanding and compassion and can embrace others. We accept others as they are, and then they have a chance to transform.

Illustration from Hug Me by Simona Ciraolo

The question then becomes how to grow our own hearts, which begins with a commitment to understand and bear witness to our own suffering:

When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.

Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.

And yet because love is a learned “dynamic interaction,” we form our patterns of understanding — and misunderstanding — early in life, by osmosis and imitation rather than conscious creation. Echoing what Western developmental psychology knows about the role of “positivity resonance” in learning love, Nhat Hanh writes:

If our parents didn’t love and understand each other, how are we to know what love looks like? … The most precious inheritance that parents can give their children is their own happiness. Our parents may be able to leave us money, houses, and land, but they may not be happy people. If we have happy parents, we have received the richest inheritance of all.

Illustration by Maurice Sendak from Open House for Butterflies by Ruth Krauss

Nhat Hanh points out the crucial difference between infatuation, which replaces any real understanding of the other with a fantasy of who he or she can be for us, and true love:

Often, we get crushes on others not because we truly love and understand them, but to distract ourselves from our suffering. When we learn to love and understand ourselves and have true compassion for ourselves, then we can truly love and understand another person.

Out of this incomplete understanding of ourselves spring our illusory infatuations, which Nhat Hanh captures with equal parts wisdom and wit:

Sometimes we feel empty; we feel a vacuum, a great lack of something. We don’t know the cause; it’s very vague, but that feeling of being empty inside is very strong. We expect and hope for something much better so we’ll feel less alone, less empty. The desire to understand ourselves and to understand life is a deep thirst. There’s also the deep thirst to be loved and to love. We are ready to love and be loved. It’s very natural. But because we feel empty, we try to find an object of our love. Sometimes we haven’t had the time to understand ourselves, yet we’ve already found the object of our love. When we realize that all our hopes and expectations of course can’t be fulfilled by that person, we continue to feel empty. You want to find something, but you don’t know what to search for. In everyone there’s a continuous desire and expectation; deep inside, you still expect something better to happen. That is why you check your email many times a day!

Illustration from The Missing Piece Meets the Big O, Shel Silverstein’s minimalist allegory of true love

Real, truthful love, he argues, is rooted in four elements — loving kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity — fostering which lends love “the element of holiness.” The first of them addresses this dialogic relationship between our own suffering and our capacity to fully understand our loved ones:

The essence of loving kindness is being able to offer happiness. You can be the sunshine for another person. You can’t offer happiness until you have it for yourself. So build a home inside by accepting yourself and learning to love and heal yourself. Learn how to practice mindfulness in such a way that you can create moments of happiness and joy for your own nourishment. Then you have something to offer the other person.


If you have enough understanding and love, then every moment — whether it’s spent making breakfast, driving the car, watering the garden, or doing anything else in your day — can be a moment of joy.

This interrelatedness of self and other is manifested in the fourth element as well, equanimity, the Sanskrit word for which — upeksha — is also translated as “inclusiveness” and “nondiscrimination”:

In a deep relationship, there’s no longer a boundary between you and the other person. You are her and she is you. Your suffering is her suffering. Your understanding of your own suffering helps your loved one to suffer less. Suffering and happiness are no longer individual matters. What happens to your loved one happens to you. What happens to you happens to your loved one.


In true love, there’s no more separation or discrimination. His happiness is your happiness. Your suffering is his suffering. You can no longer say, “That’s your problem.”

Supplementing the four core elements are also the subsidiary elements of trust and respect, the currency of love’s deep mutuality:

When you love someone, you have to have trust and confidence. Love without trust is not yet love. Of course, first you have to have trust, respect, and confidence in yourself. Trust that you have a good and compassionate nature. You are part of the universe; you are made of stars. When you look at your loved one, you see that he is also made of stars and carries eternity inside. Looking in this way, we naturally feel reverence. True love cannot be without trust and respect for oneself and for the other person.

Illustration by Julie Paschkis from Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown

The essential mechanism for establishing such trust and respect is listening — something so frequently extolled by Western psychologists, therapists, and sage grandparents that we’ve developed a special immunity to hearing it. And yet when Nhat Hanh reframes this obvious insight with the gentle elegance of his poetics, it somehow bypasses the rational cynicism of the jaded modern mind and registers directly in the soul:

To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love. To know how to love someone, we have to understand them. To understand, we need to listen.


When you love someone, you should have the capacity to bring relief and help him to suffer less. This is an art. If you don’t understand the roots of his suffering, you can’t help, just as a doctor can’t help heal your illness if she doesn’t know the cause. You need to understand the cause of your loved one’s suffering in order to help bring relief.


The more you understand, the more you love; the more you love, the more you understand. They are two sides of one reality. The mind of love and the mind of understanding are the same.

Echoing legendary Zen teacher D.T. Suzuki’s memorable aphorism that “the ego-shell in which we live is the hardest thing to outgrow,” Nhat Hanh considers how the notion of the separate, egoic “I” interrupts the dialogic flow of understanding — the “interbeing,” to use his wonderfully poetic and wonderfully precise term, that is love:

Often, when we say, “I love you” we focus mostly on the idea of the “I” who is doing the loving and less on the quality of the love that’s being offered. This is because we are caught by the idea of self. We think we have a self. But there is no such thing as an individual separate self. A flower is made only of non-flower elements, such as chlorophyll, sunlight, and water. If we were to remove all the non-flower elements from the flower, there would be no flower left. A flower cannot be by herself alone. A flower can only inter-be with all of us… Humans are like this too. We can’t exist by ourselves alone. We can only inter-be. I am made only of non-me elements, such as the Earth, the sun, parents, and ancestors. In a relationship, if you can see the nature of interbeing between you and the other person, you can see that his suffering is your own suffering, and your happiness is his own happiness. With this way of seeing, you speak and act differently. This in itself can relieve so much suffering.

The remainder of How to Love explores the simple, profoundly transformative daily practices of love and understanding, which apply not only to romantic relationships but to all forms of “interbeing.” 

(Blog by Brainpickings)


“What are we humans listening to?”  

We are obviously listening to something strange-  Look at our results- Global warming, wars, plastic in our bloodstream, and turning the epic beauty that was Florida into a strip mall.

It is a deep question- “What are we listening to?”

Why not intervals?

As we age it is very important to challenge the plasticity of our brains.  It turns out our brains can recover from minor neuron death if the plasticity of the brain is challenged quickly after an injury- there is a window to recover brain functionality.  This is a wonderful fact. The trick is - do what you are bad at and let your brain’s plasticity do its work.  If your balance is bad- practice balance. If your handwriting is bad- practice handwriting.  I am bad at musical intervals. Really bad, so I've decided to work on this and I have now stopped playing Sudoku and am working on musical interval recognition.  

Try this amazing free App called Functional-Ear Trainer.  It is wonderful.
(Of course you should also try the free Alive Inside App too, and find music for all the elders in your life, but that’s for another day!)

All western music is based on Intervals. Download this app and try to improve your ability to recognize them. You will be amazed at how bad you are at it!  However, 10 minutes a day for a month, will change your mind and improve your ukulele playing.

I would love to know if you are as engaged by this practice as I am?

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!

How Music and Dementia Changed My Life

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My "Alive Inside" Dream

Here is the dream-

A Grandchild sits down before Grandma and looks deep into her eyes.  
The child does not want to be anywhere else, and looks at Grandma's face and hands and sees the twists and turns of long life in them. The child is curious, not afraid. 

Grandma looks at Grandchild and sees bubbling life.  
There is so much Grandchild has still to learn and so little time left for Grandma.  
The child sees knowing in Grandma's eyes.  
Grandma looks into Grandchild’s eyes.
She fears the wasting of time and life- wants to prevent this.  
She doesn’t call this Wisdom, but I do.

Grandma understands what wisdom lives in her bones.  
Love, she learned long ago, is simple, it's just letting yourself understanding another. 
Wisdom- that is a bit tougher-   
Wisdom is understanding of life through failure,
understanding how life itself echoes through our human container and through the precious time, 
of one lifetime.  
Wisdom is applied love. 

Grandma knows no one is interested in her wisdom, or even wisdom itself anymore.  They have not been interested for a long time...

In my dream the Grandchild, pulls up the Alive Inside App and says,

“Grandma, lets find your ‘Alive Inside music, so we have it, if ever we need to call you back to us, if ever you drift far away, if ever you get lost!”

“Ok, my beloved,” Grandma says, “but only if you let me tell you the stories of my ‘Alive Inside songs’ and all I learned from those times! Then you will have my stories, to guide you, if you ever drift away, if you ever get lost!”

The Grandchild considers this and then replies,   

“I want to share your music with you Grandma, I want to know the songs you danced to, when life first echoed through you!”

Grandma smiles and the child continues,

“I may seem very young to you, and kind of foolish and obsessed with my phone and my computer, but I do understand more than I want to.  I understand the greedy visions of those who've come before me is forcing my generation to be the generation to heal our species.  I do understand a lot.  The world is teaching me that I am a raindrop and life is the river, that all the pain in the world comes from trying to stand apart. I understand many are lying to me, and that being near you can help me with my confusion, this is your gift,  you can save decades of me being foolish...!  
I want you to know you are more interesting to me now, than any of my games.”

In my dream, Grandma smiles, she has been waiting for a long time to be asked this kind of questions...

The child opens the Alive Inside App.  It is free.  It is just there to connect people to their music.  The child pulls out a list of questions and begins to ask them...

“Grandma, what was your favorite music when you were 15?  

What were you struggling with then?  
What have been your greatest joys in your life?  
What were your greatest sufferings?  
Is there a song that makes you think of them?”

In the end the Grandchild finds all of Grandma’s “Alive Inside music” and has heard her stories.  

and I wake up with a smile...   That's my Dream.

If you have an elder who needs their Alive Inside music and can not afford it- write to me.

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


Help us fight Ageism, and create human connection

for elders living with dementia

and ourselves!


Schools and teaching institutions- Teach the Alive Inside Story!


*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 who are engaged with the Alive Inside Project 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 Project 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.


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