The True Value of Listening to Music When Living with Dementia

Written by Active Minds on Friday the 9th of August 2019.


Music is thought to be highly beneficial for someone with dementia, and according to NHS England engaging in activities which use music can help to improve the quality of life for those living with dementia and their carers. Something which is universally enjoyed, music holds a whole host of benefits from aiding with relaxation, to sparking memories. Here we will discuss the true value music holds for someone living with dementia.

Why Music?

The auditory system is the first in the brain to fully function before birth and therefore you are receptive and exposed to music much earlier than anything else. As those living with dementia are often able to recall memories from further in the past, music is a perfect way to trigger these memories and spark conversations.

Music has also been greatly utilised as a way to engage with those living with dementia who may have communication difficulties. The recognition of familiar songs can help to improve someone’s mood greatly and encourage interaction in activities.

Sensory Exploration

Sensory exploration has been proven as highly beneficial for those living with dementia as the more often they engage with their senses, the longer they generally have use of them. Music not only stimulates the auditory senses but can also be used to encourage the use of the others.

Whilst simply listening to music is brilliant, other activities such as singing which can be combined with dancing, can be excellent activities for boosting mood, getting light exercise and encouraging social interactions.


As previously mentioned, music has strong links to memory as the auditory senses are one of the first to develop, which means we have a whole host of memories closely tied to sound. You can use music which is familiar to your loved one to encourage them to talk about memories they associate with it. Having the opportunity to recall past, happy, memories can really lift the mood of those living with dementia and provide a sense of accomplishment.


Listening to calming music can be soothing for the majority of us; and this is especially true for those living with dementia. Why not choose some calming, soothing sounds to help your loved one relax, or perhaps opt for music you know they love which ignites memories, as this can also be comforting for them.


Communication can sometimes become difficult as someone progresses along their dementia journey, so anything you can do to open up conversation with your loved one can be beneficial. Listening to music in a group setting is the perfect way to do this; it will encourage conversation and help combat any feelings of isolation and loneliness. Why not ask gentle questions around a certain song, talk about memories surrounding a piece of music such as their wedding song, or simply just listen together and see if your loved one volunteers stories or memories.


Music is so versatile; you can incorporate it into a number of different activities. To encourage reminiscence why not play music whilst looking through a memory box; if you link the music to the photos being looked through this can really help to spark memories and encourage conversations.

Another way to encourage conversation is to organise a group listening session where everyone can get involved and discuss the music being played. Another brilliant activity is to watch a film with a strong soundtrack, as this engages the sense along with aiding in reminiscence.


Music holds many benefits for someone living with dementia, so why not spend some time exploring different activities which incorporate music with your loved one. From simply listening to a piece of music together to creating a memory box, there are many different activities which can help to improve the quality of life of someone living with dementia.