New Jersey Program Uses Music to Connect with Elders with Dementia

In yet another illustration of the strong and natural relationship between music and the brain’s function, a New Jersey music school is working with elderly residents who have been stricken with dementia to offer a new therapy program. Asbury Park’s Lakehouse Music Academy launched the program in partnership with the Alive Inside Foundation last spring and has seen promising results since its start.

The impetus for the programs establishment came largely from “Alive Inside”, a film that conveys the close and established relationship between music and the human brain. A Lakehouse instructor had seen the film and began the journey of integrating music into her grandmother’s therapy. Shortly after she showed the film to her students, they began collaborating with the Alive Inside Foundation on the pilot program. They set about learning older standards to perform for elderly patients at nursing homes, eldercare facilities, hospitals and other locations. The Alive Inside Foundation hopes to eventually spread the initiative throughout the country.

The program has led to marked changes in participants’ quality of life, including one previously non-verbal patient who began talking and singing after hearing familiar music and connecting with it on a deep and familiar level. It further reinforces music’s ability to transcend verbal communication and reach patients in a way that traditional talk therapy might not be able to. This has been clearly illustrated in various types of mental illness, including depression and substance abuse. Programs like this bring further attention to the tangible and demonstrable healing benefits of music and all that can be gained from simply listening to one’s favorite songs.

To bring further awareness to the relationship between music and healing, the Alive Inside Foundation will be hosting a fundraiser at Asbury Park’s House of Independents on October 20 that will include a screening of the film and a Q and A session with it’s creator, Michael Rossato-Bennett.