An Old Man and An iPod Shuffle

I am halfway to bed but doing the usual lingering on the interwebs.  One last check of Facebook, I told myself…and I’m glad that I did.  My cousin posted a beautiful video showing how an elderly man in a nursing home reacts to music.  It’s a short video (a clip from the upcoming documentary Alive Inside)…spare 6 minutes of your time?

Look at how his eyes lit up, his body moved, his body came alive as the music awakened his brain.  I think that sometimes we give up on the elderly too soon, we cast them as having had their time and fun.  What would this bag of bones do with an iPod Shuffle? Ha.  Sometimes the simplest things are the best things.  Music is such a simple thing.  But its power is no joke and often underestimated.  Who knows what new kinds of interaction Henry can now have with his family, the nursing home staff, and other residents? 

The last time I was home I’d returned for a funeral…and ended up attending another.  As is traditional in Jamaica there is a Nine Night.  I attended the Nine Night for “the other” funeral with Mommy, my little sister, a friend of mine, and Grandpa.  It was a loud affair, totally over the top: the family hired a professional Nine Night band (yes, they exist) and there was celebration of life through the night.  As it turns out, I left Mommy there with Grandpa and my sister…I was tired from the rushed travel, that day’s funeral, and we had to be up very early the next day for the journey to St. Ann for this funeral.  But Mommy couldn’t bring herself to leave because Grandpa was having so much fun.  A man now often in pain in bed — very unusual for Grandpa to linger in bed but lately he has had to — was up and moving to the sounds of that band.  As with Henry, it was beautiful to see.

11 Responses to “An Old Man and An iPod Shuffle”
  1. petchary says:

    This is just wonderful! Why shouldn’t the elderly have fun too? I have often thought they must so often be really bored, because people sort of tiptoe round them and are on their best behavior with them. Old people are still human beings! I remember just two days before he died, my father was watching his favorite cooking show on TV and telling us, “Ooh, I could just eat that right now.” The host was a rather gay Jamaican guy, in fact. He always made my father laugh.

  2. This brought a smile to my face! 🙂
    People seem to forget that being elderly doesn’t automatically render you mute/incapable of enjoying things like music, sex, romance, travel etc.

    • Sex? Eek!

      I kid, I kid. You’re right of course. Growing old doesn’t mean having to retire a corner and be mute. We all need to treat the elderly better; it’s something that I’m definitely working on in my life and encouraging those close to me to do.

  3. Ms. Nikks says:

    I’ve always seen music as a powerful tool. Capable of bringing about such emotion and bringing people together. I’m not surprised it’s helped this man. Wonderful post.

  4. june says:

    he is so careful in listening!Just wanted to give you a shout from the valley of the sun, great information. Much appreciated.

  5. Aunty Claudia says:

    Thanks for sharing. Its a beautiful story.

  6. bethpow06 says:

    Thank you for that beautiful video. I remember watching the HBO documentary on Alzheimer’s disease – there was a man who couldn’t hold on to information for more than 2 minutes at a time. Then they took him to perform with his old barbershop choir, and he knew every word to every song. As soon as it was over he was lost in the fog of dementia again. For Henry’s family it must have been lovely to see something pull him back to himself. Dementia kills by inches, your loved ones are pulled away and apart slowly. The personality occasionally twinkles out from behind the curtains, and if it takes an ipod to open up the drapes, that is a beautiful thing.

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