Music to awaken the memories that Alzheimer's takes | Society

Music to awaken the memories that Alzheimer's takes | Society

Let's make our brain a house, a home full of interconnected rooms that we decorate with learning, furnishing with experiences. The windows sift through the senses and the carpets allow us to walk comfortably through our identity until one day, unfortunately, gusts of wind begin to arrive bringing the haze of Alzheimer's. But in this building that time threatens erosion there is something that remains unmovable: the room in which we keep the melodies. Pepe Olmedo (Granada, 1988) achieves that the majors return to take possession of stays that they thought forgotten; He visits them every time he blows the music of their lives.

Scores of what we were, songs of who we are

This young man from Granada is the architect of the Music Association to Awaken: "We put that music to you, that soundtrack that accompanied many moments of your life", and then the magic happens: "Noticing how his gaze fills with light and how the person comes towards me". Olmedo claims to take many of those moments recorded in the soul, experiences with people who seemed inaccessible and suddenly comes to momentary awakenings "when we get the person to become more what he is; in its essence ".

Pepe is energy and emotion, humanity in its purest form. When speaking, his attentive pupil makes the listener feel and his sincere smile full of positivity to the darkest spaces. With his enthusiasm, he is able to transform the eyes of those affected by Alzheimer's disease and those who accompany them because, "even though it is a very complicated disease, it also gives you very nice moments," he says.

His face shines when he remembers his grandmother, who seems to have inherited his passion for boleros and his strong character: "My grandmother was pure love, warmth, closeness ... It was music too". Remember that with her she experienced the difficult transition of a goodbye, but also the beauty of shared moments that she now strives to reproduce with other people: "When we sang a song together I noticed that something woke up in her and something woke up in me" . They were key experiences to take Music for Awakening forward years later, although not only did she learn the value of small gestures.

Pepe, with his grandmother.
Pepe, with his grandmother.

His mother, who was the director of several senior centers, took her with her the afternoons of her childhood instead of leaving him at home. Pepe feels lucky because in those residences "I saw that there were more people like my grandmother, more grandparents, so to speak, who transmitted to me that wisdom, love and respect that I believe that an older person comes to transmit", but also discovered "They were not all well, that not everyone was spending the end of their lives in the best way."

On one of those afternoons, he met a man who loved to draw and who, like him, was passionate about music. When they started painting, it was that 8-year-old boy who dictated what colors to use because in his memory they had vanished, but when he sat at the piano, that old man was able to play complete melodies. It was then when Pepe Ruido -so he was called at home due to his passion for music and sounds- noticed the tool that he would later turn into a vocation: "It's amazing that he does not remember colors, which is something that since childhood we are repeating, and yet the music seems to be still there. "

Perennial emotions

That first intuition was confirmed later when working as a volunteer in nursing homes after finishing his studies in Clinical Psychology. Pepe then became a peculiar DJ organizing sessions in which the music of the lives of the inmates of the residence sounded and rediscovered the experience with that character from childhood: "People who had never been able to say a well-spoken word to me and suddenly sing the lyrics to me of Kiss Me a lot" With the right melody, the fog dissipates; those who were restless find calm and those locked in themselves manage to open windows to the outside.

The famous phrase from the movie White House, "Play it again, Sam," now acquires more meaning than ever. When Ingrid Bergman pronounces it, it refers to the song that used to sound in Paris, asking the pianist to recover the melody with which his mind will be able to return to the moment in which he had been happy. In the same way, elders as protagonists can ask Pepe or those who accompany them to sound again the soundtracks of their own films. It is no coincidence that those songs that patients listened to between 15 and 30 years are the most effective because, at that time, "there were many things in their lives that they were doing for the first time, such as getting married, leaving home, the first boyfriend...". They are the sounds that enclose the emotion and return the sharpness.

The psychologist claims that "music is associated with our life, our memories, our emotions" and through it we can open rooms that we thought were walled up: "If we try to communicate with them through emotion, it's going to be simple, we're going to be able to get ". A question then arises: how many families that take care of people with Alzheimer's in their homes can benefit from something as wonderful as music and maybe they are not doing it? From the question marks the association with which Pepe spreads, form and conscience: "Stand up to him, take him by the hand, look him in the eyes and sing the songs of his life".

Pepe Olmedo is not alone in this feat because, like him, many other professionals point out the value of music therapy by supporting their arguments with scientific bases. From magnetic resonances it has been possible to verify that, indeed, the brain areas that are in charge of musical memory are less atrophied in diseases such as Alzheimer's and there are more and more caregivers, family members and professionals who also open the room of the melodies . Since the association have served about 600 people with neurodegenerative diseases, have trained more than 800 professionals, family members and caregivers, and one of their videos exceeds 25 million reproductions in 170 countries.

When the project began in 2013 there were about 600,000 people with Alzheimer's in Spain. Today the figure has doubled and reaches 1,200,000 diagnosed. For this reason, Music for Awakening has a dual purpose: the awakening of elderly people with Alzheimer's, but also that of society, so that "we wake up our conscience in the face of this type of disease, before this type of people, by force and intensity that music has for therapeutic purposes ".

Touch it again, Sam. Let's do it all many times, because that way we will always have the music and we will always have Paris, the place where we keep happiness. As Pepe points out, sometimes "we look for innovative tools or even pharmacological therapy but, at the best, we do not give importance to other simpler, simpler things, like a song". The light in the look that awakens the melody of forgotten emotions is more necessary than ever, so "if you have close people with Alzheimer's, do not doubt it. What they need is a lot of love, a lot of respect, that we listen to them, that we protect them and that we play them a lot of music ".

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Content adapted from Pepe's video


In the year 2050 there will be 135 million people with Alzheimer's, a disease that degenerates the brain to end memories. Pepe Olmedo discovered that the melodies remain and founded Music for Awakening, the association that uses music to recover the essence of people without memory.


I believe that music is in every part of our life. I always remember being with my grandmother singing the songs of her life. My grandmother for me was a key thing; My mother as a psychologist has been the director of several senior centers and she, instead of wanting to leave me at home in the evenings, did very well and took me to the centers for the elderly. As soon as I went to the residence one day, I decided that I wanted to dedicate myself to the elderly.


Working with people with Alzheimer's is something wonderful. Your mind works today differently from ours, but the emotions last until the end. If we try to communicate with them through emotion, it will be simple. Sometimes I find a person still or very nervous and suddenly start listening to the first chords of some songs of his life and I notice how his eyes fill with light and notice how the person comes towards me.


I think it's very important that we take our heart and throw it to them.


To this day, Music for Awakening is an association. We are coming to senior centers, we give training to the maximum of professionals of the center, we also give training to the relatives. In the residence where volunteering began, we became in a few years one of the residences in Granada that we were able to reduce the use of certain drugs related to anxiety, agitation, and depression. We have done this today in more than 40 centers throughout Spain.


I'm shedding tears!


But not only with people with Alzheimer's: if you have elderly people nearby, use it too; It is a moment of connection with the person and, above all, connection with their life story.


I feel super lucky, very lucky to continue putting that music into their lives.

This content has been developed by Yoigo.


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