Alive Inside! The power of music comes to people with dementia via iPods

The idea: Dan Cohen brings the power of music to nursing home residents with dementia by giving them each an iPod, loaded with music that is personalized to each person's taste. The name of the documentary about the project, "Alive Inside," results from how the music seems to reach a person in later stages of dementia and bring them back to life.

Hi, My name is Dan Cohen.  

Six years ago I started bringing iPods that were totally personalized to nursing home residents in New York to see what difference it could make in their lives.  It was an immediate hit.  No matter one's cognitive or physical status, the benefits were clear: reduced or eliminated Sundowning, greater attention and engagement, just a happier state of mind.  Families and staff area thrilled when they see their loved one's improve in some way.  

Now as founder and Executive Director of Music & Memory, we are promoting the concept of personalized music so that it becomes a standard of care for anyone at home or living in a care facility.


My name is Susan Ball, an art historian/arts administrator living in New York with 30 years in not-for-profit leadership, governance, and management.  

I was asked by the Shelley and Donald Rubin Foundation to join the Music & Memory team to help its brilliant founder Dan Cohen grow to an independent self-sustaining not-for-profit organization.  It is a reward and a joy to work on this project.


A movie has been made to document the "Music & Memory" project. The information and video clip below desribe more about the project, and the movie and its premiere.

Many of us know that familiar music from our youth is often untouched during the course of the disease.  No matter the degree of memory loss, music has the power to help us feel whole, lift our mood, reduce anxiety, and help us feel more alive.

Alive Inside: A Story of  Music and Memory premieres in New York April 18, 20 and 21st at the Rubin Museum of Art Brainwave.  ALIVE INSIDE follows Dan Cohen, a social worker who decides on a whim to bring iPods to a nursing home. What Dan Cohen discovers by accident, and scientists have been studying for years, is that a person suffering from memory loss can seem to “awaken” when given music they have an emotional attachment to. As Oliver Sacks explains, ‘Music imprints itself on the brain deeper than any other human experience. Music evokes emotion and emotion can bring with it memory.”

The film is witness to this reawakening of ‘lost’ patients. The effect on the patient, the family, the caregiver is both touching and inspiring. The introduction of personalized music into patient’s lives seems to be able to open new vistas of experience, especially those with the least ability to interact. The aim of this film is to encourage widespread adoption of personalized music at home and for those in care facilities.  The reward is enormous and the cost low.

Cathy Greenblat will be attending, Friday, April 20th and invites those able to attend this screening.  For more information on the film,  

Published on 10 April 2012
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