Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Force is Alive Inside: We Can't Do It Solo

My wife, Jo, and I went to see The Force Awakens (TFA) on Christmas eve. I was excited! I loved Star Wars, and like so many parents, we had shared the Star Wars experience and memories with our children. We felt a connection! It was a family tradition!

But ... I wasn't knocked out. Entertaining, nostalgic, scary (for a woos like me), sure; but no block buster.

As chance would have it, my wife, being a lover of movies, had read a review of the 2014 documentary, Alive Inside (AI), the real-life story of how music awakens those with dementia. The following night, Christmas, we watched this film and observed profoundly demented elderly individuals come to life, dancing and singing.

Fifteen minutes into Alive Inside, it was clear that this film had already moved and awakened me beyond that which the latest Star Wars could ever hope to.

I'm not trying to be hard on TFA. But, so what if the Force is awakened in a multi-million dollar fiction film? Is a force awakened in you?

You've been entertained again. Is the world a better place? Is your life better?

Amazed by the special effects in TFA? Watch a bed-bound, institutionalized, aged person with dementia begin to sway to the music of his youth when channeled from an iPod to his headset. That's special effects!

AI shows us that there is so much force alive inside individuals, that most of us would see as empty. It shows us that many dementia patients can be happier, more calm, and more cooperative if they have access to music that moves them. It suggests that fewer expensive drugs would be necessary if inexpensive personalized music were provided therapeutically.

As I watched AI I thought:
  • if music is this powerful in people who are profoundly ill, or near dead, what could it do for the rest of us?
  • this is more profound evidence of the need for change in our disease-care system,
  • music powerfully uplifts me; but I don't engage with it often; time for change,
  • time for a monthly Dancing with the Doctor,
  • most of us know that we feel better when we hear music that we love; why don't we use it more?
  • I will ask around in Ojai, CA (my hometown) to see if our retirement and nursing care homes offer personalized music to their residents.
  • music therapy is a #FunctionalMedicine,
  • I am concerned that this film may imply that dementia is an unavoidable, bad luck condition, rather than one of many chronic degenerative diseases that are more common in those with unhealthy lifestyles,
  • though not covered in this film, I hope that lots of adults will realize that we Americans need to make profound change in how we take care of ourselves, for if we don't, dementia is one of a number of lifestyle-driven diseases that will bring our Country to its knees,
The film impresses upon us the importance for those with dementia, and in fact for all of us, of connection to ourselves, others, and music. The force is alive inside all of us, and with all due respect to Harrison Ford, we can't do it Solo.


  1. Thank you for bringing this to our attention! I've not seen anything on the subject before. Will definitely be passing this along as I hear of others dealing with the issue in their families, and it seems we all know someone ...

    1. I'm glad it feels so valuable to you too Jean!

  2. I thought Alive inside was a good movie. My mom has dementia Kris (as did my grandfather)and I worry I might get it too. But, I'm not like them, I don't just sit and watch TV. I do crosswords, read, listen to music and dance with my grandson and I try to eat right. And it was great to see you. I wish I could have seen Jo.

    1. Hi Karan
      Dementia is not primarily about genes. It is primarily about lifestyle. You're doing a good job. Dairy, gluten and sugar are risks.

  3. Music is a force, a language that speaks to us all. I listen more often to the music in Nature - take a walk in the woods, listen to the trees singing & talking, especially when there is a good breeze. I arrive back home filled with energy, my mind at ease...