A smiling elderly woman listening to music though her ear buds.

Music is a powerful medium. Most of us have experienced music’s ability to transport us back to a specific place and time. Studies have shown that music engages broad neural networks in the brain, including areas responsible for emotions and creativity.

For those living with dementia, music has been shown to help improve memory and alter unwanted behaviors. A study at the Boston University School of Medicine discovered that people living with Alzheimer’s were better able to remember new information when it was provided in the context of a song. A Brown University study showed that nursing homes that adopted the Music & Memory program of a personalized playlist for residents helped them become much less dependent on behavior-altering medications and made them significantly less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors.

Researchers have identified several reasons why music is such a powerful tool in helping those living with memory loss.

Musical appreciation and aptitude remain intact longer than many other cognitive functions

A study conducted at a senior living community had a group of residents meet three times a week to engage in singing familiar songs. Other residents were encouraged to simply listen. Residents were tested for cognitive ability and life satisfaction before and after these sessions. At the beginning of the study, researchers discovered that both the singing and listening groups began the test period with similar scores. However, four months later, the singers scored significantly better than the listeners in both tests.

Singing engages the mind

In the study mentioned above, singing engaged the brain in multiple areas – not just the area related to singing. Participants were listening to the music as they were singing and were watching others in the session, activating other areas of the brain.

Music can stimulate, calm and evoke powerful emotions

Music has a way of reaching even those with advanced dementia. Emotions can spark memories, bringing life to someone living with dementia in a way nothing else can. If a patient is experiencing agitation, music can calm them down. If they’re sad, a song can lift their spirits. Music is a powerful mood shifter and can help facilitate desired behaviors and cognitive function.

At AMR, we provide a free program for our clients called Mindful Music. Mindful Music provides MP3 Players or iPods filled with our clients’ favorite tunes. From Bach to the Beatles, Sinatra to Sting, we will create a playlist designed specifically to the musical preferences of our clients. Contact us today about getting a Mindful Music program for your loved one.