Going back to before we had the Internet or cable TV, the average person listened to an AM station on the radio in the car on the way to work, came home and watched TV after dinner (3 channels), and went to a movie on Saturday night. Pop culture was much more focused and less distributed. For the most part, everyone listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, and saw the same movies. It was the “soundtrack” or “setting” for their lives. I thought: If I can recreate that pop culture, it could act as a catalyst to trigger long-forgotten memories, which in turn will act to increase identity and boost mood.
It’s pretty easy to target those years in seniors’ lives that host some of their best memories. At assisted living facilities, the average age is 87. I determined that if I could recreate pop culture from 1948 – 1959, I could stir up a lot of memories. So, over a period of two years, I created twelve Memory Lane Shows. In addition, I made a few other “specialty shows” that reach back even further, bringing back the Swing Era and the post big-band days when Sinatra was king.
These shows are unique. It’s nostalgia on steroids, the best of the best of the pop culture in any particular year. Rare, live performances of original artists singing the top songs of the year, the most memorable scenes from the highest-grossing films, and the funniest scenes from the most popular TV shows. Each show is packed with as much stimuli as possible to increase the chances of hitting a memory. There may be as many as 40 – 50 different clips in any one-hour show.
In the second year of production, I added interactivity to the shows. Now, each show has several trivia questions to stimulate thinking, "Name that song", and "Sing-a-longs". The presenter can modify the interactivity component on the fly to fit the cognitive ability of the audience.
After field-testing the Memory Lane Shows myself at a few dozen facilities, I found an overwhelming positive response and realized that I could empower others to present the shows also. In the second year, I began hiring presenters and found that they loved doing the shows as much as I did. At nearly every show a few of the bolder residents always come forward and share how much they appreciated the show and the memories it brought back for them. That’s what makes the business worthwhile.
I believe that people should use their talents for the betterment of others. I feel lucky that I am able to work as a curator to preserve the great musical and film history of the 1940’s and 1950’s and bring it to seniors who would not otherwise have the ability to enjoy it. I have been an avid fan of music and film since the 1950’s and, as a professional musician, author, researcher, and public speaker I feel that my talents are being put to work in the most beneficial way possible. I hope that this message has given you a greater understanding for how powerful nostalgia is and that you will share the work I have done for the benefit of others as well.
I have usually let my intellectual properties – books, software, seminars, and courses - speak for themselves. However, at the urging of many, I am going to try to answer the question I hear most every day: “How did you happen to come up with this idea?”
I believe you will find the answer to that question and the “story” behind Memory Lane both interesting and educational.
Three events in my life most likely contributed to a “Eureka” moment, which led to the creation of The Memory Lane Shows.
The first event occurred not long after I had taken care of my mother for two years until her death from Alzheimer’s. There is nothing like first-hand experience to inspire action. My professional life has been one of curiosity and interest followed by research. After doing research on Alzheimer’s, I came away convinced that we are facing an epidemic in the very near future that could have societal consequences. Thinking there was little I could do, I filed that away for future reference.
The second event occurred when I was doing research for a 10-hour personal growth seminar that I developed, teaching the latest research on the science of happiness. I stumbled across a research study whose implications I felt were profound.
The researchers had taken a group of 72-year old men and put them into an artificial environment that tricked their brains into thinking it was 20 years earlier. Six weeks later these subjects showed greater grip strength, better posture, better eyesight, and tested higher on cognitive and memory tests. Their brains had been tricked into believing they were 20 years younger, and their bodies behaved accordingly.
The third event occurred when I came across the brilliant scientist, Dr. Oliver Sacks, who discovered what is now known as the “music-memory connection.” As a result of recent advances in MRI scanning, scientists have proven that only music has the ability to reach all parts of the brain. This is a very profound discovery that shouldn’t be taken lightly. An equally important recent discovery about the brain is that memories are stored throughout the entire brain. Putting the two recent discoveries together we get: Memories are stored throughout the entire brain; only music has the ability to reach all parts of the brain.
Eureka! Every significant experience you ever had, usually an experience that was novel or accompanied by an emotion, is stored somewhere in your brain, and is just waiting for a catalyst to release it. Music is that catalyst. When you think about your own experience with music, you’ll see that’s true. You will hear a song on the radio that you hadn’t heard in decades and you will remember exactly what you were doing when you first heard it. Without the catalyst, however, that memory may quite likely be lost forever.
Let’s get a bit philosophical. Who are you? You tell me you’re a mother or an architect or whatever role you are currently playing. But, what happens when that role ends, as is the case with seniors? I have come to believe that we are nothing more than the sum total of our memories. As our memories fade, so too does our identity. Identity, how we see ourselves, is very important to one’s happiness. So how can we hold on to our identities? In a word, by utilizing recent discoveries about the brain, including the aforementioned music-memory connection. To use a metaphor, pop culture acts like a setting or stage upon which we act out our lives. You are an actor, playing a role – working, playing, and engaging in relationships. At some point in the day, you will hear music or encounter pop culture. Pop culture, which I define as music, TV, and movies - acts as the setting for your life.
© 2015 by Memory Lane Entertainment LLC.
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