Community Stories/News

Understanding Dementia – Music Has Many Benefits

By Mary Bates, MS, CT, Certified Dementia Practitioner

Numerous studies show that music can improve the quality of life of people with dementia, reducing agitation, relieving stress, reducing anxiety and depression, and giving the individual a way to connect with others even as verbal communication becomes difficult.

Both listening to music and actively participating in making music — by singing, dancing, clapping and even playing simple instruments — can boost the person’s mood, encourage movement and, in some cases, improve cognition.

Live music, note staff at many Memory Care units is so much more stimulating to residents — the joy is seen immediately on their faces, along with foot-tapping and jumping up to dance.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a person’s musical memories remain even as dementia progresses because those areas of the brain linked to musical memory remain relatively unaffected by the disease.

Music can enrich your loved one’s life and give both of you a way to remain connected in a meaningful way even as their dementia progresses.

These tips may be useful when choosing music for a loved one with dementia:

  • Musical Preferences: Does he or she enjoy Big Band music, ‘60s Rock ‘n Roll, Country Music, Show Tunes, Salsa or something else that brings back happy memories? Keep in mind their musical preferences as you make the selections. If they are able, ask them to help you choose the music and develop a playlist of their favorite songs.
  • Setting the Mood: Playing tranquil music can calm the person during different times of day, such as when they are getting dressed, at mealtimes, and at bedtime. When you want to boost their spirits choose upbeat, peppier songs.
  • Move to the Beat: A person with dementia benefits from physical activity and tapping, clapping, and dancing helps get them moving in an enjoyable way.
  • Sing Out: Singing together can help boost the person’s mood and reinforces their connection with you. Singing familiar songs also stimulates your loved one’s memories.
  • Avoid Overstimulation: Close windows and doors and shut off the TV to eliminate competing noises and avoid sensory overload. Set the volume of the music to the person’s hearing ability.

Interested in learning more about music and dementia? An excellent resource is, whose mission is to “Use music and transformational education, to ease the pain of Dementia and create meaning for all involved.”

Mary Bates, MS, CT, is a Certified Dementia Practitioner. She is the Assisted Living and Memory Care Director of Summit by Morrison, a senior living community offering independent living, assisted living, memory care, and respite care. Through this column, Mary will share the experience, knowledge, and resources she and her team rely on, anticipating that it will be useful for anyone living with, caring for, or coming into contact with a person with dementia. Send your questions to Understanding Dementia at Summit, 56 Summit Drive, Whitefield, NH 03598 or email Mary will share information and answer as many questions as possible through this column. Learn more about Summit by Morrison at

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