Huge Hope for a Huge Fear

aaa Alive-Inside-Film-Poster-2014Hello…  It is 3:29 in the morning.  It’s cold, dark, and the last place that I want to be right now is sitting in a cold study, typing in the middle of the night.  And yet, here I am, writing to you about a gigantically bigger topic than I had planned.  If you’re ever going to gamble on reading a paragraph, gamble on this one.  It’s for your benefit and possibly someone you love very much.  Please…read on.  Please…

There’s Hope:  As with a lot of people, Pamela and I had finished our work for the day and were looking for something entertaining to watch.  It’s getting harder by the way.   Perhaps we’re getting pickier, but by sheerest chance I came upon a documentary that looked…if not exciting, a tiny bit informative.  I was wrong.  It was exciting, hugely informative and by the end, Pam and I had tears streaming down our faces.  The thought that came through was that there’s Hope…real no-bullshit hope.  We didn’t expect it.  We weren’t even looking for it.  And it hit both of us like a sledge hammer.  Let’s get to it.

The name of this extraordinary documentary is Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory.  Most important of all, here is the link:   If you don’t get Netflix, the whole documentary is free on You Tube.  Just type in Alive Inside.

They aren’t asking for anything, no money, no time, no nothing.  It isn’t that kind of documentary.  If you do nothing else today, go to the link.  It will provide you with serious knowledge that can make your life better…or possibly the life of someone you love very much…..a whole order of magnitude  better.  

aaaaaa tn1_Alive_Inside_Movie_Wallpaper_1_wlpfd

Dan Cohen, a geriatric social worker, accidentally discovered a mind-blowing fact, while making rounds at nursing homes, retirement homes, assisted living homes.  Time after time after time, he observed utterly hopeless old people, our moms, our dads, our sisters and our brothers, sitting in chairs, essentially dead inside.  Their brains are gone and the medications they are on keep them so sedated that they can be wheeled around like so much furniture.  The first image you’ll see (above) is that of an old black man, slumped over in a chair.  His family comes to visit…his eyes are shut and the absolute best his family can get out of him is a dull grunt.  That’s it… They sit around and talk about him as if he’s already dead.  For all intents and purposes, he IS already dead.  There is zero communication and statistically, a vicious circle begins.  With no interaction, the amount of visitation at old-folks homes drops to near-zero.   But here, as they say, is where a miracle happens, only…it’s a replicable miracle!

aaa black man atzheimersAn iPod???  No…no pill is popped, no injection goes into his arm and our Savior does not appear and touch him on the forehead.  Dan Cohen slips a set of headphones over his ears and hits a button on a small iPod the size of a matchbook.  For this man, Louis Armstrong is now singing inside his head.  A second goes by, two seconds, and then you see before your eyes the miracle beginning.  Eyes pop open, bleary from not having actually looked at anything for a year.  He gazes around and… begins singing along with Louis!  The image you see above is the first frame of the cameraman capturing his awakening.  Compare the two images for yourself.

More fascinating, his daughter asks him who is singing…and he knows.  His arms begin swaying to the beat, toes tapping.  He has finally truly awakened.  Seriously, monumentally, amazingly…awakened.  A slender thread of communication has just formed with his loved ones that had long ago vanished.

Before you roll your eyes in skepticism, think for a moment:  Did you ever notice that for all the minutiae that you’re having trouble remembering…  Who the hell is this new starlet?  What’s the name of that guy we knew at the old house? ….a song, any song from 10, 20, 3o, 50 years ago and SONOFAGUN…you remember the lyrics perfectly.  You start singing…and those stupid lyrics come right back to you.  It’s not just you and it’s not just me.  For a variety of reasons which aren’t yet understood, music…and lyrics hard-wire so completely into our brains that they even survive the ravages of Alzheimer’s Disease.  That’s the key and that’s where the magic comes from.

aaa musicMUSIC as a Link: More importantly, each of those songs provides a conduit back into your mind’s memory banks.  People with horrible, give-up-and-go-home symptoms of Alzheimer’s have a window to their minds that is otherwise closed.  What does it cost to open that window?  It’s not a pill that costs $300 from Medicaid, it’s a little pair of headphones placed over your ears that you can use over and over.  Once again, this isn’t one of those nasty commercials where you’re waiting for the hook that asks you to reach for your check book.  This is for you, my friend, and your mom and your dad…and maybe your wife.

pyramidsScary Statistics: I was vaguely aware that Alzheimer’s Disease was spreading rapidly, though I didn’t have the facts…nothing graphic in mind.  65 years ago the graph of  the world population with Alzheimer’s looked a lot like a tall pyramid…(tiny part at the top was old people…big base of the population was young.)  Today, it’s not a pyramid.  It’s a column.  In other words, the number of people with Alzheimers is a major portion of our world population.  By 2050 there’s a pyramid once more…only upside-down as the number of old folks with Alzheimer’s goes out of control.

This breakthrough provides a conduit, a lifesaver, if you will, where the lives of our parents, our loved ones…and ourselves can be much much better.

aaaaa woman with earplugsYour Mom or Your Sister: Maybe you could…or maybe you couldn’t relate to an old black gentleman waking from a long sleep of nothingness.  Ten minutes later, you meet a couple in their 50s.  The husband is quiet…looks sad and his wife is exactly what your best friend or maybe your sister looks like.  Slender, a bit bedraggled, and care-worn.

For a long moment, you have no idea which one has the Alzheimer’s.  The wife, keeps apologizing.  She is asked to name the spoon that’s held up in front of her.  She can’t and she starts crying.  She apologizes.  At the entrance to the elevator the camera rolls as she’s asked to hit the “down button”.  She can’t.  She just can’t figure it out.  Next shot, Dan Cohen slips on a set of headphones and…you hear at the same time she hears…The Beach Boys.  And then something happens.  She begins swaying…then laughing.  She stands up and begins dancing, swaying a little to the beat.  She opens her eyes and says, “C’mon guys,” to the camera man…and they dance.  At the end….she begins weeping.  Her husband is weeping, too.  He asks his wife, “Why are you crying?”  She looks at him for the first time since… “I’m happy…and I love you, Bob.”

aaaaa alive-insideAlzheimer’s Disease isn’t  a disease that hits other people, people other than yourself.  It can hit anyone… anyone.  Exercising and cutting out red meat and dieting don’t do diddly.  And the rate of Alzheimer’s increases EXPONENTIALLY past the age of 60.  Take a look at this link.  Here it is again:

Mimi on scooterMy Sister: Is this miracle just for Alzheimer’s Disease? No, it is not.  It works for other disorders as well.  Bipolar, Schizophrenics… they’re just beginning to discover the potential.  It’s in this documentary and this one hits very close to home.  A member of my family, my sister, through zero fault of her own, has suffered this terrible, terrible bad luck of the draw for decades.  Trouble is, after so many years, you begin to see only the results of the disease at work…not the poor victim who succumbed.  It’s in this link.  I see my own sister, how she is now…and how she could be transformed.  Watch and learn.    Watch and be moved.  Watch and brush away the tears.  It doesn’t have to be this bad.  There’s hope.  The pretty girl on the scooter is my sister, Mimi.


P.S.  I promised you I wouldn’t proselytize and I intend to keep that promise.  I will say that Pamela and I are right now exploring how best to spread the word.  That is the first step.  If you’d like to help just a little you can forward this e-mail…or just the link to someone you love.  That’s the first step.

There are hundreds of thousands…perhaps millions of iPods sitting in drawers that were supplanted by the newest toy. That old iPod you don’t use anymore could wake up someone’s mom or dad or grandparent. We are exploring how a tie-point can be established to bring this all about. Sometimes it’s time to roll up your sleeves.  Thanks for reading!


18 Responses to "Huge Hope for a Huge Fear"

  1. Henry Harvey says:

    Thanks for sharing, Henry! I don’t have much of a following on Facebook or Twitter, but shared your thoughts on those 2 social circuits this am. I study brain health as a hobby so this documentary will be right up my alley. Unfortunately I don’t have Netflix but will look this morning to see if I can purchase it.
    Sam A.

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Hi Sam,
      Glad you enjoyed it. It’s one of the most thought-provoking documentaries I’ve seen. With your concern in mind, I did a little checking and found that it’s available on You Tube. Future posts will show that.

  2. Harry Snyder says:

    Henry –

    Thanks for sharing this very moving video. I’ll pass it along to friends and family.

    Keep an eye out for the movie “Still Alice” starring Julianne Moore coming to the County Theater soon. It’s about a woman’s struggle with Alzheimer’s.

    Here is the trailer –>

    Harry S.

  3. Hi Henry and Happy Birthday!
    I hope you will never stop writing…you are one of the best and we so enjoy each and every article.
    Patti and Gary

  4. Henry Harvey says:

    Hi Patti and Gary!
    Thank you! The only time I don’t like writing is when that little muse-like voice wakes me up at 3 am and yells,
    “Get to work!!!” Other times, I’m very greatful.
    Hope you two are doing well! Big hug!

  5. Lindsay T. says:

    I’ve been meaning to tell you I look forward to your blog posts…intelligence, simplicity, thoughtfulness. They’re always great.

    Thanks again.


    • Henry Harvey says:

      Thank you, Lindsay,
      What you find when you write sometimes is a razor’s edge that you try to balance on…sharing some new thought without utterly alienating. And…the truth always has to come first, otherwise…why bother? Although we won’t always agree, at least some concepts can be aired out in the open for thoughtful discussion.

  6. Pamela Harvey says:

    Years ago we visited my mother in a physical therapy rehab center for geriatrics. We witnessed the same zombie-like behavior with the patients.
    One elderly man, who had just been checked in, complained about the music that was playing in the halls by the nurses and aides…it was rap music.
    He was upset and rightfully so, since he was in his late 80s.

    I remember you said that each wheel chair could easily have its own iPod and tuned to age appropriate music…I couldn’t agree more.

    After watching this spectacular and touching documentary, each facility could easily play what the patients want to hear in the community rec. room, basically for free.
    After viewing this film, I am determined to make some lives a lot better by the gift of music. The results are stunning.

    Let’s make this happen across the entire nation…someday, we’ll be in one of those facilities, and I hope to see an improvement in the way patients are treated in regard to their mental state. If music is the passageway to communication, then let’s implement it, and give the patients some dignity they deserve.
    Pamela Harvey

  7. Ron Ball says:


    I get so many emails, I delete a lot of them. I opened yours and read it this morning. Here’s what happened.

    · After I saw the movie trailer, I told my wife to just trust me and go downstairs with me to watch this movie on Netflix. Didn’t tell her anything about it. We watch movies in the evening, not the morning.

    · It was so powerful for me, I bought five DVDs of the movie to circulate

    · A bit of synchronicity here. My best friend’s mother is 88, in a nursing home and has pretty much given up on life. I just came back from buying an iPod Shuffle and headphones. Gonna send a package with the movie and have my friend put his mom’s favorite music on it. Perhaps it can spark her spirit.

    Wonderful documentary. Struck a chord with me. Thanks for sharing your discovery.

    Here’s to you, Henry
    Ron Ball

    • Henry Harvey says:

      Nope, here’s to you Ron!
      You caught the ball and made a touch down…Huge one.
      With those five DVDs you just may have changed a whole lot more lives than you or I ever realize.
      Glad you didn’t delete!

      Thanks and I’m posting your comments.


  8. Henry Harvey says:

    I wish I had known the possibilities this entailed when my Mother seemed to have lost all faculties after a stroke. At our age, however, who knows when any of us may want to try it!
    Rich B.

  9. Henry Harvey says:

    Agreed. I already zone-out quite often, tuning-in to iTunes or Spotify. It’s really true for me. I can pick any one of hundreds of songs and be transported back to a specific point in time where lots of details exist and bubble out.

  10. Henry Harvey says:

    This documentary is fascinating. My mother was very musical and succumbed to Alzheimer’s Disease. Although there was music playing sometimes in the background where she was, it was clearly background music, soft and passionless. If she had had a set phones on her ears and the score from La Boheme playing in her head, I wish I could have seen the result.
    Stuart P.

  11. Henry Harvey says:

    Thanks for the e-mail guys, I will look into it. Can’t believe that is Mimi, except the more I look at the photo I can see it is her. Thanks for sending me this!!! Phyllis S.

  12. Henry Harvey says:

    Sometimes, a bit of knowledge, a piece of the puzzle jumps in front of you, completely unexpected. That’s how it was with this docu. Hope you can use the info. with some friend or loved one.

  13. Henry Harvey says:

    Hello Henry,
    I’m Maranda Bodas the current managing editor for REALIZE.

    Ellary just forwarded your recent piece about Alive Inside – we would like to run your review and support the project.

  14. Henry Harvey says:

    “Hi Maranda!” I’m charmed that you wish to support the project.
    For what it’s worth, we have thousands of subscribers to our weekly blog and this one re: Alive Inside hit a very powerful nerve. Sometimes it’s possible to see something that can actually be done without moving the mountains to Mohammed or spending seven figure amounts. Elbow grease and a bull horn. Let’s get to it!

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