How iPods Can Be Used To Treat Australian Alzheimer's Patients

Last year, a groundbreaking documentary on how music could be used to improve the quality-of-life for dementia patients brought us to tears. This year, the team behind the same Alive Inside documentary is here in Australia, and wants to introduce musical care into the Australian aged care system.

In case you didn't see it, Alive Inside: A Story Of Music And Memory is a documentary that follows Dan Cohen — founder of MUSIC & MEMORY — as he works to bring music to those suffering conditions like Alzheimer's and dementia.

The world of medicine works to take care of the chemicals in and around the body so as to preserve this human machine. Dan Cohen's work focuses on getting doctors and nurses to treat not just the body, but also the soul with music.

In 2008, Cohen saw that none of the 16,000 long-term care facilities in the US had iPods for their residents. So, with a little funding help, Cohen bought 200 iPods and began putting specific playlists together.

Since then, MUSIC AND MEMORY care has expanded all over the US, helping patients who are sometimes potentially disconnected from their memories due to illness reconnect with their lives, families and their happiness.

That's because specific music and curated playlists personalised to a patient's life can actually serve to awaken memories and improve their quality of life. That's what Alive Inside and Dan Cohen explores.

Since the film came out in 2014, Dan Cohen has been talking about it all over the world, and in Australia he's talking with the help of Dr Maggie Haertsch, CEO of the Arts Health Institute.

Dr Haertsch does similar work to Cohen, in that they both look to bring an element of creativity to aged care. She has her work cut out for her, too: Treasury statistics reveal that due to "sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy", we're facing an ageing population.

Between 1994 and 2014, Australia's population of 15-64 year olds remained steady, while the population of people aged 65 and over increased from 11.8 per cent to 14.7 per cent. Furthermore, the population of those aged over 85 increased from 1 per cent to 1.9 per cent during the same period. The number of those aged under 15 years of age decreased in Australia in the same period from 21.6 per cent to 18.8 per cent. Bottom line? We're getting old, fast.

Australia's ageing population poses challenges for the economy, including how the Government plans to pay for care.

What Dr Haertsch wants Australia to realise, however, is that care is more than just treating the body like a machine: it's about touching the soul.

Since Alive Inside premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and spread all over the world via YouTube, the relatives of those with diseases like Alzheimer's and dementia have been reaching out to long-term care organisations to treat their family with musical therapies.

That's what both Dan Cohen and Dr Maggie Haertsch want for Australia: they want us to watch Alive Inside and start reaching out to care organisations to spread the word about this treatment.

You can watch Alive Inside for yourself below. To find out more about MUSIC AND MEMORY programs, head over here, or to learn more about the Australian Arts Health Institute, head here.

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