Music and Dementia

Listening to music has been shown through a variety of research to impact neurochemicals in the brain, this is inclusive of dementia care. Research has shown that music can be a powerful tool to improve cognitive function, as intervention, quality of life and have a long-term effect on depression symptoms that are associated with dementia (Moreno-Morales et al., 2020). Music can also improve memory, research has suggested that playing and listening to music can improve neuroplasticity in the brain, which is important for learning and forming new memories, and slow down cognitive decline in those aged 62–78 (Marie et al., 2023).

Music can also help manage and reduce comorbid conditions of dementia, such as depression (Baker et al., 2022). As well as this, music can also bring about positive mood changes (Narme et al., 2014) as well as elicit pleasurable responses, such as dancing or smiling, when other communication is no longer present (Cuddy & Duffin, 2005). This blog post will highlight the ways that music can be incorporated into a person’s dementia journey.

Using Music at Home

There are a variety of different ways music can be used as a tool at home, here are some suggestions and things to consider:

  • Using music to create mood: music can induce mood in everyone. Using a piece of relaxing and calming music may reduce agitation or anxiety and can also be used in a daily routine to help a person wind down for the evening. Familiar uplifting and cheerful music can help with anxiety also, as well as providing a person living with dementia reassurance. Silence can also be as important here, constant music and sounds all day may cause overstimulation.
  • Encouraging movement: active music therapy, which is using instruments or tools to create music, can be an excellent tool to get a person moving in a way that is comfortable for them. This could be playing an instrument, clapping, dancing or simply singing together. This can also be adapted to an individual’s mobility.
  • Music to elicit memory: listening to music can bring back emotions and memories. Music and reminiscence therapy can often go hand in hand, talking about a piece of music or an artist they enjoy from the past can help a person with dementia talk about memories, bring on a sense of identity and allow for conversation. Photographs or objects can be used alongside music too. For some, particular songs may bring on bad memories. Planning should be done ahead of this and be ready to offer comfort and reassurance.

It is important to remember that people are individualistic, some types of music intervention may work for some but not for others. Consideration to a person’s needs is key prior to implementation.

Developing a Playlist

Next is the fun part, making your playlist! You can develop a playlist along with your loved one, ask what songs they like and enjoy. There are a wide range of resources as well as playlists dedicated to eras in time that can be used as a tool to help. Here are a few listed below:

  • Playlist for Life offers a wide range of resources from the very beginning of creating a playlist, how to source music and creation. As well as this, they have resources in Bengali, Simplified Chinese, Welsh, Gaelic (Scottish), Hindi, Polish, Gujarati, Urdu, Somali, Nepalese and Punjabi.
  • BBC Musical Memories offers a variety of categories to choose from, including international music from a wide range of countries, to allow you to develop a Spotify playlist. There is also Memory Radio which provides the best of the BBC from the 1940s – 1990s. These can also be filtered by region of the UK. For more BBC resources, you can click here.

Purple Angels MP3 Players and Music

Purple Angels offer free MP3 players to those who are living with dementia. Each of these MP3 players can be sent out preloaded with 15 songs that are chosen by the individual to provide comfort and joy. The Dementia Hwb has forms that can be sent to Purple Angels to apply for a free MP3 or you can email directly. For more information, please visit here.

Choirs, Singing and Dancing

There are a number of group activities in Swansea and surrounding areas for people with dementia and carers to attend, such as:

  • The Musical Memories Choir offers both in person sessions and online singalong sessions through their Facebook live sessions on Monday mornings, watch the virtual choir Friday 11am – 12:30pm, and catch up with sessions on their YouTube channel. Sessions are held in Christwell Church, Manselton on Wednesdays 11am – 12:30pm and Linden Church, West Cross on Fridays either 11am – 12:30pm or 1pm – 2:30pm.
  • The Ageing Well Choir. For Ageing Well activities updates and information, you can sign up to their email newsletter.
  • Goldies Cymru is part of the Golden Oldies charity and provides fun singalong and dance sessions to a variety of pop songs from the 50s onwards to get people socialising and smiling. Sessions are held in various locations throughout Wales. Information on Swansea sessions can be found here. There are also sessions in Neath Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and beyond.
  • Singing for the Brain organised by the Alzheimer’s Society brings people who are affected by dementia together to sing along to improve wellbeing and have fun. There are sessions in Swansea online and in person, Carmarthen, Neath Port Talbot and more.

There are a variety of benefits to music, for more information and advice you can visit the Dementia Hwb in the Quadrant. If you cannot make it to the Hwb, you can call us on 01792 304519 or email for more support.


  1. Music Therapy in the Treatment of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis – PMC (
  2. Music interventions in 132 healthy older adults enhance cerebellar grey matter and auditory working memory, despite general brain atrophy – ScienceDirect
  3. Clinical effectiveness of music interventions for dementia and depression in elderly care (MIDDEL): Australian cohort of an international pragmatic cluster-randomised controlled trial – The Lancet Healthy Longevity
  4. Efficacy of musical interventions in dementia: evidence from a randomized controlled trial – PubMed (
  5. Music, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease: is music recognition spared in dementia, and how can it be assessed? – PubMed (