Based on a true story.
She got out of the shiny black town car one leg at a time, with her black hose and shiny black high heels leading your eye, as they should. She strolled into the theater and into the elevator with a handsome man on her arm, as she should. Cameras were waiting as she glided through the lobby, bulbs flashing, heads turning. A staff person opened the door, and there it was, the thing she had been waiting for and had spent all day getting ready for – the magical red carpet.
It wasn’t easy with the hair, the dress, the makeup, the jewelry. It had been years since she had walked on it, or dreamed of walking on it, and she savored every moment as the crowd buzzed and the cameras whirred.
She turned her head as she observed both sides of the aisle, smiling that million-dollar smile she still had after all these years, walking ever so slowly, knowing she had deserved it. When she reached the end, the cameras seemed to never stop, and she soaked it up, not knowing if this was going to ever happen again. It was a dream, fate, the gods, that after all these years she was here, and she couldn’t wait to see herself on the big screen, her image for all to see, her name in the credits.
She was relevant again.
And the music – that was a surprise – a music video at her age? I guess miracles never cease, she thought. She walked by the hors d’oeuvres and smiled coyly at the TV camera, as she approached her seat. The show was about to begin, and she was going to enjoy every minute of it.
Click HERE to watch the music video.
Sounds like a Hollywood script – right? The ageless star coming back to glory one more time? Well, in some ways it was. Except this was no ex-Hollywood babe. This was Betty, a very normal, 89-year-old former housewife, from Kalamazoo, Michigan, who has dementia and lives in an assisted living community. Betty, and another fifteen of her “new friends” – all other residents of a Vibrant Life Senior Community called New Friends Memory Care and Assisted Living – were the guests of honor and performers at a world premier of a music video entitled, “Don’t Define Me, Just Remind Me.”
Click HERE to watch the CBS news coverage of the event.
At 89, Betty is part of an unusual choir of people who have dementia. They practice every week and perform occasionally and have actually made a music video, whatever that is. So here she was – like a dream – performing again after seventy years since high school choir, hearing the cheers of the crowd, and actually walking down a red carpet in nylons and pumps. Except it wasn’t a dream, it was real, and she just hoped like hell that she would remember all of this the next morning.
It was all a blur. There she was, onscreen, singing and dancing in the music video. Seeing herself – this older but still attractive lady in a documentary they had made of this “memory care choir” and, finally, performing the three Christmas tunes the choir had rehearsed. She was surprised they sounded as good as they did, even though she couldn’t remember the arrangement; but she just followed the choir director’s instructions and somehow it all came out alright. She even had a solo – singing “Silent Night” – and by god, she was shocked she knew all the words. But somehow her old, but still running brain, knew them all. There was a speaker in the middle of the program who talked about how one part of the brain (the cerebellum) remembered music and somehow never forgot one note of a tune – something the other parts of her brain didn’t share. She sure knew about that.
They talked about how music seems to “light up” your whole brain and after singing it can make people think a little better, as well as increase their mood. Well, she didn’t need a study to tell her that! She always felt great after she sang, especially being part of a group–this group.
At first she was shocked that she could even do the vocal exercises which warmed up her well-worn vocal cords, let alone sing a dozen songs that didn’t sound half bad. Once her kids moved her in to this “old-age home” a few months ago (or was it longer than that?) she pretty much felt her life was over. She was just playing out the days until the good Lord took her to be alongside her long-deceased husband. But after exercise classes in the morning, mind games and movies in the afternoon, pretty decent food (she had to admit) and a group of girlfriends she palled around with and had grown to love – that hadn’t happened since high school – she realized she wasn’t quite ready to pack it in. She actually still had something to live for. And she especially looked forward to Thursday afternoons at two, where along with fourteen other older souls like herself, she could sing again, make beautiful music, forget the aches and pains, the sorrows, the regrets, and be that gorgeous twenty two-year old who once had dreams of being a star on Broadway.
And then somehow, magically, here she was. as she looked around, in her silk stockings and high heeled shoes, gazing at the audience on their feet cheering wildly, not knowing exactly how she ended up on the red-carpet and the stage at this time of her life – but sure glad she did.
Here is the star soloist performing Silent Night with her friends in the Tic-Toc Choir
Dean Solden is the founder, co-owner of New Friends Memory Care, a Vibrant Life Senior Living Community in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He is also the musical director of the “Tic-Toc choir”, a choir at New Friends made up people who have memory care issues. The following article is based on the true story of the hip-hop, memory care music video the choir produced, and the red-carpet world premier event which showcased both the choir and the music video.
For more information contact – Deansolden.firstname.lastname@example.org; vibrantlifeseniorliving.com;