edward long

Association of Old Crows


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What is it that brings this old man back to life?

Watch the six minute video and then explain to your fellow TEDsters why the cognitive spark suddenly and immediately roused this elegant old gentleman from his long-standing state of persistent unresponsiveness to a gleeful, exuberant appreciation of life:

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    Apr 12 2012: IMHO

    It's his core memories as a young person,i bet he loved music from when he was very young.
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      Apr 12 2012: I suspect you are correct, Ken, about the idea of fanning the remaining embers to re-ignite a once roaring bonfire of affection and delight. But even if there is no correlation the effect is glorious to watch. Thanks.
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      Apr 14 2012: Music speaks to the midbrain - it is intrinsic in the proto and core self (as defined by Damasio).
      I suspect that it has special significance to the cerebellum - certainly, to play a musical instrument or sing deeply involves that part of teh brain.
      WHat happens is that the core self becomes defined by music - whether you play or whether you just listen. It becomes a large part of your self-definition.
      When one listens to the musics of teh different eras of your life - it directly invokes the self that you were at the time - this sparks-up the memories that were layed down at that time and recovers the gestault of that self at that time - the whole box and dice. It transports you to an entire world.
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    Apr 15 2012: Like dried roots soaking up water so to did his neurons react to the sudden stimulation. They caused old dormant connections to come alive again and once woken from their sobriety they didn't want to stop.

    While under that spell, it would be cool to be able to see the images of his mind both of the imagination and fMRI sort.
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    Apr 15 2012: Amazing video - and wonderful to see Henry's transformation!

    Music is more powerful than we can imagine. It is certainly capable of transporting me to places where I want to be - either imagined, or back to enjoyable periods experienced in the past.

    Cab Calloway's music is clearly a powerful marker of a wonderful period in Henry's life.

    Thanks for sharing Edward.
  • Apr 14 2012: I think it's the fact that he was living in an institution that was intended to provide care for him but ended up becoming more a prison or mental asylum, to his way of thinking. To hell with that, to my way of thinking also.

    The stimulus and attachment to a previously more independent way of living was what bought him back to life. That and the fact that music and the arts opperates on a less than rational and more personal level. All the rational and well meaning care in the world wouldn't do anything for him, what he was desperatley craving was personal attachment and a true communication.

    What he needed was for people to LISTEN to him and care FOR him rather than ABOUT him. Not because it's charitable to take care of the elderly but because every single human is living in the same world as one another and to be valued for their own sake and not as some abstract problem like 'how does society take care of an ageing population?'
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    Apr 14 2012: Thanks for this link Edward.
    I see this kind of thing all the time.
    In fact, for the last 8 or 9 years, my life has been dedicated to bringing the full power of music into the lives of ordinary people. Particularly those who have spent all their lives in mind-numbing servitude to money and carreer, and then find themselves retired and feeling like their lives were wasted.
    My focus is on the humble pennywhislte, it has a special allure to those with Celtic roots. Because it is so simple, it is not a daunting challenge to pick up and play some haunting old melody or any jolly old tune you knew when you were young.
    I call it "the tin leprechaun". And to follow it, is to be lead on a journey beyond anything you ever expected. It is the long jouney home.
    In that way I regard it as a little dorway to heaven.
    Certainly, for me, it has lead me home, it has lead me to a community that few know even exists.
    I now know with absolute certainty that heaven is not in the sky - it was right here all along.
    I am sure that music is not the only path, but it is a very important one.
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    Apr 12 2012: It appears that he was upset because of being put in a home. When a person becomes upset they quit talking. The music restored his communication because of his affinity for the music. I think most pathologies are to an extent because of some sort of upset.
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      Apr 12 2012: Interesting Mr. Gilbert, thanks. The caregiver said she " tried everything" to bring Henry out of his self-imposed isolation. If that is true doesn't there seems to be more here than an old man pouting about his fate?
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        Apr 12 2012: In your experience when a person becomes upset do they stop talking? Consider the magnitude of this man's upset.

        Have you seen people who become upset and quit talking and heard them say they quit talking for a long time and can't even remember what they were upset about?

        Communication is the very substance of life, when it is lost why would it be surprising to have such a big effect?
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          Apr 12 2012: So you think Henry was deliberately not communicating and was fully aware of his surroundings all the while? I sense that he is innocent of such sophisticated guile. He was involutarily adrift "out there somewhere", and Cab Calloway sent him back to us. Thanks Pat.
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        Apr 12 2012: Individuals are very capable, much more than they get credit for. Seizures and the like can act as a shield. I said what I think, I will agree to disagree.
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    Apr 12 2012: The institutionalised care envoronments for the elderly tend to be pretty unstimulating, so it's not surprising if people in those environments lapse into apathy. Recognising their individuality, their history and their interests will rouse most people from a passive and unresponsive state.
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      Apr 12 2012: Amen. You have Occam's Razor on your side, Ms. Dagen. I must say, though, this particular facility looks clean, well-lighted, nicely decorated and generally friendly. And, Henry's nurse seems to have a genuine concern for him and a history of trying to reach him. You can see I want to go with the warm, fuzzy feeling that comes with believing in the magical, mystical power of music, which Thomas Carlyle called "the voice of angels."
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        Apr 12 2012: It's a step beyond care, isn't it. It's a direct connection to the individual to find the thing which brings the mind alive. For that gentleman it was music. Someone else might respond to the sight of the mountains or the sea. Another person might come alive by being given the opportunity to dance,even if they can only manage a shuffle rather than the elegant or energetic steps of previous years. Babies or children or animals might provide the spark for others.

        I have visited a few facilities which care for the elderly, and been oppressed by the lack of energy, even if care isn't lacking. A few months ago in another conversation on here someone used the expression 'transients in the system'. The subject of that conversation was health care, but there are parallels. Even in the best of establishments, the routine requirements tend to overshadow the individuality of the inmate, and the effect is to depersonalise them. Restoring that personal identity is key to both physical and mental wellbeing.

        Mind you, a lively patient can demand more of the system than a passive one, so there is a certain disincentive for the care organisation.
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          Apr 12 2012: Hi Anne, very interesting thoughts you bring out.

          I have elderly parents, and one of my biggest concerns is that I can't see myself putting them in a home, any home.

          I think the big facilities have the elderly separated by condition...the ones that can walk and talk are in one wing, and the less mobile in another.

          Around here we have Adult Living Facilities, where someone will purchase a house and convert it into a home for the elderly. Usually a house will have between 4-8 elderly women, or men, or couples.

          Either way, the environment leaves much to be desired. Lots of elderly sitting around doing nothing but staring out into space, or into a tv set.

          I agree with you that even in the best of establishments, the effect is to depersonalize the patients. And in order to have physical and mental well-being a restoration of their personal identity is vital.

          Great comment......made me think alot......
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          Apr 12 2012: Anne, your pragmatism is irrefutable. I have a friend who is a music therapist and I am hoping to get his comments on this video. I expect he will agree that music is one of the energizing, animating stimuli available to those who actually want to energize and animate their residents. Maybe this upcoming movie will raise awareness about this important issue.Thanks.
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    Apr 12 2012: Hi Ed, Good post and great video. This showed me that there is aways a key somewhere to unlock a difficult situation. I think this should be a wake up call for all of us who work with people. For teachers there is a way to engage even the most difficult student if we do not give up and do not let the student give up. In this video the key was music. For a student it may be discovering his passion and giving him a opportunity to include or associate it with his studies. I felt that this man was "left out" when he went to the home. Music as the catylist that "included" him.
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      Apr 12 2012: I guess people can "tune out" at will. You are right that this is not just a problem with the elderly. I wonder if my teachers had let me listen to Chuck Berry in class would I have been more animated? Thanks Mr. Winner, I agree that the feeling of being excluded is terrible.
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    Apr 12 2012: The magic of music ceases to amaze me! I think that was very inspiring video. Thanks for sharing that Edward!

    I will forever have a new perspective on music from now on. =)
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      Apr 12 2012: Touching wasn't it Derek? The magic of music.
      PS. I'm sure you meant to say "never ceases to amaze me".
      • W T

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        Apr 12 2012: PS. I'm sure you meant to say "never ceases to amaze me".

        I wanted to write to him last night and say the same thing.....but then I thought, nah, you are always correcting people's grammar and vocabulary mistakes Mary, cut it out.
        But here you are doing it for me.

        Thanks Edward.
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          Apr 13 2012: Edward and Mary, you two are too kind. Thanks for the revision or addition to my response. =)

          I was sitting next to this automatic door that kept on opening and closing during the night and no one was there, kind of scared me, but I managed to respond almost completely coherently. HAHA!
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    Apr 12 2012: Edward, I absolutely loved this six minute presentation.

    It is just fantastic that music elicited such a response.

    The fact that he was a music lover when he was younger might have something to do with it, don't you think?

    Let's hope that nursing homes all over the world realize the power of music, and are able to help the elderly with it.

    I am sure that other elderly patients might react just as enthusiastically to other stimuli....such as food. I knew a man in his 90's who just loved olives. Whenever they wanted his cooperation, his nurse would promise him olives, and he would comply with her requests.

    Thank you for sharing. I look forward to reading any insights from other TEDsters with some expertise in this field of neuroscience.
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      Apr 12 2012: Oh my, Mary, does it really come down to something so sterile as neuroscience? I prefer terms like magic, or miraculous, or mysterious. The Ipod definitely brought a happy place to the old fellow! Thanks Mary.
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        Apr 12 2012: Oh boy....I MEANT to say....I look forward to reading any insights from other TEDsters with some expertise in the field of "magic, miracles, or mysteries of the Ipod".

        I only used neuroscience because of the doctor speaking throughout the video.....it said he was a neuroscientist. I wonder if the gentleman in the home is being studied?

        But Edward, do you think it is really the Ipod?.......I took it more to be the music itself, and the ipod just the tool used in order for the other patients not to be disturbed with the sounds.

        I'll have you know that if my daughter watches the video, she will surely say...."MOM I HOPE I DON"T HAVE TO BE IN AN OLD FOLKS HOME TO GE AN IPOD"

        I am keeping this TED conversation under wraps.

        Of course, the magic and the miracle and the mystery is MUSIC.....not neuroscience.........you know I read in a journal last year about an elderly lady in the Phillippines who was at the stage where she didn't talk any more (alhzheimers). A missionary visited her and decided to take along some christian music that was sung at the house of worship. Next thing you know, the elderly woman began singing with the music at the top of her lungs.....So I am very aware that music is something incredible.......it makes the heart rejoice.

        I made a CD of songs for my dad a few months back and bought him a CD player, so when he feels lonely, he listens to the wonderful songs and can lift his spirits. Many times when I show up at his house unexpectedly, I catch him listening to the music. It has helped him alot.

        Thanks again for the great video......I hope they show it on TV in some documentary like 60 minutes or 20/20, so that the elderly who do not enjoy technology and/or music can think about getting themselves an ipod.......or the like.

        Have a super Thursday Edward!!!!