Young people with dementia, 2014

One reason I started this blog is to write about my visits to people with dementia, visits I started in April 2014. Playing shakuhachi for them is a strong and inspiring experience. From the very first day, I felt the urge to write about it, to talk about them. And I started to collect stories.
Although I mainly play for old people, I sometimes visit another building where the “young people” live. Quite a shock to realise that some of them are around my age. I only knew Alzheimer’s disease as the most common cause of dementia. With my visits to the Young people, I discovered Pick’s disease, a disease where symptoms begin in people between the ages of 40 and 60. Different age, different behaviour, different stories.
Here is a text I wrote in October 2014.


The pictures on the wall are about dance. The woman is curled up in her blankets. She is not that much older than me, ten years maximally: today I’m visiting the young people. The first time I came here, I thought they would be really young (20-30), but I was surprised to discover they are between 40 and 65 years old. Still younger than the elderly 80+ I normally visit in the other building.

I play a piece, she is still hiding under her blankets. I look at the pictures on the wall and start to improvise something related to dance in my imagination. She turns and lays on her back, pulls her feet up and starts to shake them, as she was dancing in the air, on the ceiling, light, away from the gravity, free.


We go to the living room, I’m playing for seven people.

  • One sticks his tongue out at me with a big smile, keeping repeating “nice”
  • One asks tirelessly for a cup of coffee.
  • One is telling a story which started a long time ago
  • One laughs in silence and dances with his hands
  • One fell asleep, maybe
  • One sits in the back in her own world
  • One says nothing but wants to blow in my flute as soon as I stop

They are making music with me, and next time we’ll make music together again.

(October 28, 2014)

Related posts: Shakuhachi and dementia, how it started, Waterlelie, De Brug, Iris.


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