Ways music can enrich lives – music and dementia

We believe in the power of music to connect with the human potential that lies within us all, including those living with profound disability, illness and exclusion.

Music and dementia

Music can be so powerful for someone living with dementia. It can help ease anxiety and disorientation, unlock memories, reduce isolation and help people regain their sense of identity. This helps create a feeling of being connected – something so valuable to people living with dementia, and their family and friends.

According to Alzheimer’s Society, there are 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK. They believe around half of the population knows someone affected by dementia.

If you have been affected or would like to find out some tips about using music with people living with dementia, then see our short guide below.

Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy and dementia

Even as the condition develops, the capacity to respond to and become engaged in music survives, which makes music therapy a highly effective and beneficial support tool.

Whatever the stage of dementia, our music-centred approach enables our therapists to sensitively work with, and respond to, what the person can do, listening to their movement, breathing and vocal sounds. 

If you’d like to find out how our music therapy could benefit a care home or organisation you support with people living with dementia, you can register your interest.

Ideas on using music to support someone living with dementia

Singing

Singing can help people on the autism spectrum communicate and express themselves. Here are some of our ideas to get involved with singing:

  • Join an online choir – Nordoff Robbins fully inclusive choir happens every Tuesday at 4pm. It doesn’t have to be this choir though, you get involved with anyone you want to. 
  • Singalong with one of our music therapists – we’ve created Singalongs in a variety of genres of songs. These are great whether at home with family or in a care home.
  • Singing at home or in a care home – It can be as simple as putting on some of their favourite music and singing along, whether a tape, CD or vinyl. Make sure it isn’t too loud to start with though.
  • Singing for the Brain – Alzheimer’s Society’s Singing for the Brain brings people affected by dementia together to sing a variety of songs they know and love, in a fun and friendly environment. You can find out more here.

Listening to music (choosing music they like)

Whether it’s vinyl, tape, CD or a playlist, listening to music provides a source of enjoyment and entertainment. 

It can also provide emotional and psychological benefits for someone living with dementia, especially when enjoyed with family or friends. 

Make sure the music is tailored to the person and what they enjoy, as well as not being too loud that it becomes distressing.

Playlists

Playlists are a great way to bring together the music you or a loved one likes to listen to into one place. 

A playlist is a person’s story. It should include music that is personal and evokes memories of their life. It should take you back, reminding you of people or special places. 

  • Create a playlist on your streaming platform, this could be Spotify or Apple music for example.
  • Playlists for Life – Playlist for Life are a charity who want everyone with dementia to have a unique, personal playlist and everyone who loves or cares for them to know how to use it. There’s loads of resources on their website to get started.

Other support available

We know music can have so many benefits for people living with dementia, but if you need extra support and help with dementia then there are places to go.