In Touching Video, People with Alzheimer’s Tell Us Which Memories They Never Want to Forget

Director Hirokazu Kore-eda‘s 1999 film Afterlife tasks its recently deceased characters with choosing a single memory to take with them, as they move into the great unknown.

The subjects of “On Memory,” above, are all very much alive, but they too, have great cause to sift through a lifetime’s worth of memories. All have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. They range in age from 48 to 70. Two have been living with their diagnoses for six years. The baby of the group received hers just last year.

Those who have no personal connection to Alzheimer’s are likely to have a clearer picture of the disease’s advanced stage than its early presentation. A few minutes with Myriam Marquez, Lon Cole, Frances Smersh, Irene Japha, Nancy Johnson, and Bob Wellington should remedy that.

All six are able to recall and describe the significant events of their youth. At the interviewer’s request, they reflect on the pain of losing beloved parents and the pleasure of first kisses. Their powers of sensory recall bring back their earliest memories, including what the weather was like that day.

The recent past? Much hazier. At present, these individuals’ mild cognitive impairment resemble benign age-related memory slips quite closely. Their diagnoses are what lends urgency to their answers. The prospect of forgetting children and spouse’s names is very real to them.

Knowledge of the interviewees’ diagnoses can’t but help sharpen viewers’ eyes for distinct facial expressions, speech patterns, and individual temperaments. They share a common diagnosis, but for now, there’s no difficulty distinguishing between the six unique personalities, each informed by a wealth of experience.

The video is a step up for viral video producer Cut, creator of such internet sensations as the Truth or Drink series and Grandmas Smoking Weed for the First Time. This video, which directs viewers to the Alzheimer’s Association for more information, deserves an even wider audience.

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Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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