080: Music as Medicine

If you take a look around the next time you’re out in public, chances are you will pass by at least a handful of people with their headphones in. And while there may be many catching up on their favorite podcast, there are just as many that are getting down or chilling out to their favorite tunes. It’s not hard to notice that music can indeed change your mood, like discovering a new song on the way to work that can make your whole day. Or, feeling the nostalgia when you hear the Breakfast Club soundtrack that makes you want to punch a hand up in the air. Music plays a large part in our lives and can influence the way we feel, but did you know that it also has an impact on our health?

In a new episode of Absolute Trust Talk, Kirsten is joined by special guest, Dan Cohen. Dan is a long-time social worker and both the founder and CEO of Right to Music – an organization that advocates for integrating music interventions into health care, especially for those in long-term care or with dementia. He also developed the extraordinary and Sundance award-winning documentary, “Alive Inside,” highlighting some of the amazing results from using music as a tool for dementia patients.

Together Kirsten and Dan discuss the positive effects that music can have on people, including:

  • How to relieve isolation, boost spirits, and reduce negative aspects of aging
  • What your music habits say about your mental health
  • How music can help loved ones suffering from dementia
  • The epidemic that’s currently plaguing nursing homes

And more!

Now more than ever, our older adults need our support to speak out on their behalf, to help them fight isolation and reconnect with loved ones and peers. While music seems like such a simple thing we hear on a regular basis, it is also something that has slowly proven to be a vital tool in healthcare. We’re excited to share this episode with you as well as Dan’s expertise in the hope that you too can give the gift of music to either yourself or someone you know.

Big Three from Episode #080:

  1. Growing evidence supports that music can positively affect people and be used as a non-pharmacological tool for those suffering from a variety of intellectual and developmental ailments like dementia.
  2. Now more than ever, we’re facing an epidemic of loneliness and depression, especially among older adults. Music has been shown to engage more parts of the brain than any other activity, even generating new neural pathways.
  3. How can you help seniors and those around you? Share the gift of music. It’s as simple as pressing play on a favorite song.

Time-stamped Show Notes:

1:42 – Kirsten introduces this episode’s special guest, Dan Cohen! Tune in to learn more about Dan’s impressive background that involves social work, his Sundance award-winning film Alive Inside, being founder and CEO of Right to Music, and more!

2:55  –  Start listening to hear more about the premise of Dan’s documentary, Alive Inside, and why it blew Kirsten away.

5:37  – Dan touches on an ongoing nursing home epidemic: loneliness and depression.

5:52 – According to the CDC, dementia patients in nursing homes get an average of only eleven minutes of engagement per day. Why is that? Dan shares more insights.

6:53 – Did You Know? Music is a backdoor to other parts of the brain, engaging the brain more than any other activity.

8:11 – Kirsten’s curious if there have been any studies to support music helping dementia patients. Dan has the answers.

10:14 – Do you know an older adult on anti-psychotic medication? Listen to find out why they might not really need it.

11:34 – Tune in to learn how music can help with many ailments, like Huntington’s disease, dementia, arthritis, and more!

13: 32 – Kirsten and Dan discuss exactly how music works to relieve the clinical presentations discussed.

15:49 – How are you accessing music? When are you listening to it? Find out what your music habits say about your mental health.

17:07 – Start listening now as Dan talks about Right to Music and advocating for the use of Music as Medicine.

18:15 – Kirsten and Dan shed light on what policies should be in place to help institutions that look after the elderly.

19:29 – Question from the audience: Did the people in the documentary experience lasting effects, or did it stop after the music ended?

20:53: – Question from the audience: Has music been shown to have a positive effect on people who aren’t suffering from dementia or other conditions?

22:35 – Even if you don’t need music for medical purposes, here are some ways you can use music to positively influence those around you.

23:11 – Dan shares some insights on how to make music more readily available to everyone.


  • Sundance award-winning documentary, Alive Inside: http://www.aliveinside.us/#land.
  • Dan Cohen can be reached via his website at https://righttomusic.com/.
  • For more information on CANHR, visit: http://canhr.org/.
  • Absolute Trust Counsel would love to offer access to our Incapacity Planning resource page:https://absolutetrustcounsel.com/incapacity-planning/. We’ve collected our top planning information all in one place so listeners can find videos, guidebooks, blog posts, a host of information with tips and strategies on implementing, planning, and protecting themselves and their loved ones.
  • We’re pleased to provide you with a library of e-books to address common estate planning questions and concerns in practical, easy-to-understand language. https://AbsoluteTrustCounsel.com/Resources/.
  • ​ASK KIRSTEN: If you’d like Kirsten to answer your question on the air, please email her at Info@AbsoluteTrustCounsel.com.

[Ad] Planning for your future can be intimidating, especially if you aren’t sure where to start. Absolute Trust Counsel is here to help you build a plan that puts the proper protections in place to ensure your loved ones are looked after no matter what life throws your way. Getting started is easy. You can reach our team by calling (925) 943-2740 or sending an email to info@absolutetrustcounsel.com. If you feel like you’re ready to begin, schedule your free discovery call and let’s get started.

Our Absolute Trust Counsel team would love to offer all of you access to ATC’s Incapacity Planning resource page on https://absolutetrustcounsel.com/incapacity-planning/ We’ve collected our top planning information all in one place so listeners can find videos, guidebooks, blog posts, a host of information with tips and strategies on implementing, planning, and protecting themselves and their loved ones.