In this moving video filmed by volunteers Alice Barker is shown, for the first time in her life, short clips of her dancing in the 1930s and 40s. Alice, at 102 years old had been living at her residential aged care facility for over eight years and had befriended David Shuff. David, a volunteer who regularly brought his dog, Katie, in as a therapy dog and Gail Campbell, a recreation therapist, searched for years to find clips of Alice dancing back in the day. After a lucky break, David and Gail were able to bring three “soundies” on an iPad to Alice in her RACFs bed and the rest is history. The utter joy in Alice’s face as she sees and powerfully remember the moves, lyrics and melodies of the dance tunes is mesmerising.
The initiative of both David, Gail and all the friends that helped in the search is such a rich encouragement for all working in aged care. The journey of respecting, loving and admiring our seniors starts by understanding their personalities, loves and dreams. Alice’s passion was always to dance. In the video she speaks of her amazement at being paid for something she would do for free, “that music you know, I get carried away in it.” Being able to see all of Alice, her life, her full life, what she loved, how her whole self was vibrant when she was dancing, is a precious and important step that we as a society should be seeking to do for all our elders.
Many experts from doctors, to psychologists and neurological researchers have published countless studies on how music and sound can be powerful tools in rekindling memories in our seniors. While much of the brain remains a mystery, clips like this one, where Alice vividly starts singing song lyrics shows the incredible opportunity music has to bring memories and emotions back.
The way that we approach aged care should and can be informed by first person accounts such as Alice’s. To take the time to get to know what they pursued when they were younger, to bring out and bring back the moments they treasured most is one of the ways that we of the next generation can lovingly and in an informed fashion, do aged care well.
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