Musical ideas to prompt conversation and memories for a person with dementia

Music can trigger powerful memories and emotions for us all. Try these musical ideas with a person living with dementia to stimulate conversation and reminiscence.

Even when dementia causes memory problems, many people continue to remember tunes and lyrics.

Reminiscing in this way can help someone communicate and lift their mood. 

Playlists and music games

Many websites and apps can be used to listen to music on a computer, smartphone or tablet, such as Spotify, iTunes and YouTube. You can also use these to make playlists of favourite tracks. 

Playlist for Life provides advice and resources to help create playlists. Children and younger family members may enjoy helping too. 

Reminiscing about music can be made into a game. Use playlists or CDs for ‘name that tune’ – play the first line of a song and see whether someone can say what it is.

Or try a game like Musical bingo, available from our shop.

A Singing for the Brain group

Playing music and singing 

People who previously learnt a musical instrument often find they can still play as their dementia progresses. 

For singalongs, use a songbook or DVD of an old musical – usually available from libraries as well as shops.

Search YouTube for karaoke videos or check your local cinema for dementia-friendly screenings of classic movies. Streaming services, like Netflix, might offer the Hollywood, Bollywood or other musical you want. 

People with dementia can socialise while singing familiar favourites at Singing for the Brain. These groups develop their own repertoire of songs from different eras, styles and cultures. 

Someone who can’t sing or play an instrument might still enjoy humming, whistling, clapping or tapping their feet to familiar songs.

What you said...

bigmo, on Talking Point, says,

‘My husband formerly sang for many years in a cathedral choir. It’s wonderful how putting on an LP immediately calms his periods of anxiety and frustration. LPs also have the advantage of his being able to play them on the turntable by himself: he is dependent on others to play the digital varieties!’ 

Reader June Holland says, 

‘We attended a musical group one day a week, but my husband was more interested in serving the cups of tea. Then I discovered YouTube, with all his favourite golden oldies – Andy Williams, Peggy Lee, Al Johnson – so much to choose from, well worth a try! Four difficult years, but the happy times keep me smiling.’ 

HarryO52 on Talking Point says,

‘I arranged for the pipe band I play for to go to my wife’s care home. I watched as we played, the residents’ hands clapping and feet tapping, seeing that was priceless. As for my wife’s reaction, she was laughing and the years just seemed to disappear.’ 

Pipe band

HarryO52’s pipe band visiting his wife’s care home.

Dementia together magazine is for all Alzheimer’s Society supporters and anyone affected by the condition.
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