The benefits of music therapy for people living with dementia have been studied time and time again. Music therapy can facilitate mood elevation and relaxation, maintain motor skills, promote increased socialization and engagement, and provide opportunities for reminiscence. Reminiscence is defined as recalling memories from your past, either actively or passively. Music therapists who work with this population have always used a participant’s preferred music to evoke memories and emotions that may arise from hearing a beloved song. Music therapists can use a variety of interventions with individuals with dementia to work on the goal of reminiscence, including song discussion, therapeutic singing, and therapeutic songwriting. Music therapy groups in an eldercare setting are also becoming increasingly common, with group interventions such as improvisation and group songwriting still focusing on the goal of reminiscence.
The researchers conducting this study gathered data from five themed sessions. These themes included “Spirituality,” “Autumn,” “Christmas,” “Childhood,” and “Going to Dances” with songs that focused on these themes. Participants included five female residents of a long-term residential care facility. Each session followed a similar structure of discussion, singing of a familiar, using items with the intention of sparking memories (i.e. passing a Rosary during the “Spiritual” group) and letting each participant interact with the items if they would like, repeating the chorus of the familiar song, and then repeating the order again. There were 4 songs, each with a new item, per session.
This study displays that individuals with dementia who participate in music therapy and reminiscence interventions demonstrate positive mood and engagement in an activity or intervention. Participants were frequently participating in musical expression throughout the sessions, specifically through therapeutic singing. More research is needed, however, the results of this study indicate that music therapy and reminiscence-based interventions can promote and foster increased engagement and positive moods.
By Josie Waugh McCutcheon, MT-BC
Kelly, L., & Ahessy, B. (2021). Reminiscence-Focused Music Therapy to Promote Positive Mood and Engagement and Shared Interaction for People Living With Dementia. Voices: A World Forum for Music Therapy, 21(2). https://doi.org/10.15845/voices.v21i2.3139