Music and dementia: How music can benefit people living with dementia

Published by Alison Watson-Shields on

Dementia is a progressive brain disease that affects memory, thinking, and behaviour. It can be a challenging and isolating experience for both those living with the degenerative disease and their care partners. However, music has been shown to have a powerful impact on people living with dementia. In this blog, we will explore how music can help people living with dementia and the benefits it provides.

Improves Mood and Reduces Anxiety:

Music has been shown to have a positive effect on mood and anxiety levels in people living with dementia. It can help reduce agitation, anxiety, and depression, making it an effective tool for managing emotional symptoms. Music also has the ability to trigger memories and emotions, which can be particularly beneficial for people living with dementia who may have difficulty communicating their feelings.

Enhances Cognitive Function:

Music has been found to stimulate the brain and enhance cognitive function in people living with dementia. Listening to music, playing an instrument, or singing can help improve memory recall, attention, and overall cognitive abilities. This is because music activates multiple areas of the brain, including regions involved in memory and language.

Increases Social Interaction:

Music has the power to bring people together and increase social interaction. For people living with dementia, music can provide a common ground for socialising and connecting with others. Singing, playing instruments, or simply listening to music with others can help foster a sense of community and improve overall wellbeing.

Provides a Sense of Purpose:

Music can provide people living with dementia with a sense of purpose and meaning. Whether playing an instrument or singing in a choir, participating in music-related activities can help people feel valued and accomplished. This can have a positive impact on their self-esteem and overall quality of life.

One specific project that utilises music to help people living with dementia is the Playlist for Life project.

The Playlist for Life project is a UK-based initiative that encourages people living with dementia to create a personal playlist of music that has meaning and significance in their lives. The playlist is then used as a tool to stimulate memories and emotions, providing a connection to the person’s past. Research has shown that listening to familiar music can help improve mood, reduce anxiety, and enhance cognitive function in people living with dementia.

One of the key benefits of the Playlist for Life project is that it provides people living with dementia with a sense of control over their lives. By creating a personal playlist, they are able to choose the music they want to listen to, helping to improve their overall sense of wellbeing. Additionally, care partners can use the playlist as a tool to engage with their loved ones and provide them with meaningful stimulation and comfort.

The Playlist for Life project also provides support and resources for families of people living with dementia. Through workshops and training sessions, care partners are able to learn about the benefits of music for people living with dementia and how to use the playlist as a tool for engagement and connection.

In conclusion, music can play a vital role in the lives of people living with dementia. Whether it’s improving mood and reducing anxiety, enhancing cognitive function, increasing social interaction, or providing a sense of purpose, music has the ability to make a real difference. So if you know someone living with dementia, consider introducing them to music and watch the benefits unfold.

You can join our in-person and online Musical Memories Singing Circle sessions for a longer music-based activity, tune in to our Virtual Sunday Singalong for a short and sweet musical intervention or get in touch with Alison, who voluntarily runs a community Playlist for Life help point and can help you set up your own personalised playlists for those you care for in community and care home settings.

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