Alive Inside New Programming – Comm-University
'Alive Inside' the film taught us about more than the power of music. It is a hidden message is that Empathy ignites change. In this way, each of us can serve as a change agent.
Connecting youth with elders through music has a profound impact on the lives of both generations. We know Empathy is teachable through this experience. We had to ask ourselves, is a one-time service experience enough to create the change we want to see in our world? Our answer to this question is Comm-University- an Empathy Revolution that we believe can change the trajectory of both eldercare and education. Comm-University solves problems society can no longer afford to leave unaddressed.
Comm-University is an intergenerational interaction and a completely new way to envision nursing homes. Students, from kindergarten to college, from local schools, participate each month in teacher-led, curriculum-based learning. Across a diverse curriculum, spanning subjects such as plant science and horticulture, reading and writing, music and science elders become an integral part of youth education. Michael Rossato-Bennett director of 'Alive Inside' and AliveInside.Org believe youth and elders are meant to teach each other and are working to build new eldercare facilities that push together a school, a birth center, a community center, and a nursing home. This effort is being documented in Rossato-Bennett's follow up film, 'Alive Inside 2.'
Comm-University began when a local couple brought the film “Alive Inside,” which had won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival, to Healdsburg. The film showed, when music was matched to the life experience of a senior with Alzheimer’s and played to them through headsets, the began connecting with the people around them. The film was so emotionally powerful that Healdsburg residents spontaneously donated over $40,000 that night. Tony Fisher, the head of Marketing/Community Relations at Healdsburg Senior Living (HSL), met with Michael Rossato-Bennet and was so inspired he started an intergenerational program that has evolved into what they named the Comm-University program. Comm-University now links 300- 400 students, from 3-years-old to seniors, from 13 local schools each month with the HSL seniors. What makes this program so exciting is its economic viability- It synergistically works with two existing systems, elder care, and schools. The proof of concept for Comm-University is the fact that Healdsburg Senior Living is the only facility in 5 counties that has no empty bed, a one-year waiting list and spends its entire marketing budget on making life better for its residents through Comm-University. For this reason alone we believe this is an idea that will spread like wildfire.
AliveInside.Org, filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett, and Tony Fisher are committed to spreading the Comm-University idea. Comm-University is a continuum of relationship-building programs where elders with dementia are an integral, ongoing part of the lives of growing youth K-12. The students are equally a part of the elder's lives. Comm-University in Mexico City has shown how these relationships can change the way an elder leaves the world. When 'No One Dies Alone' elders pass-happy and not in despair. This is a good outcome. Comm-University engages young people in empathy and arts-related experiences throughout their entire developmental stages. It is building a new generation of leaders and creates a better future for all of us. It teaches the values once taught around the fire for 250,000 years by our common ancestors, giving the youth a sense of social, emotional, intellectual, physical and ethical/moral wholeness that provides both generations with a feeling of belonging, something missing in modern life. In the process, both youth and elders are consistently celebrated and respected.
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We all deserve to feel Alive Inside!