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Musical Memories: The power of reminiscing

Recently, we hosted the #SBSwinnershour on Twitter and fielded a number of interesting questions from participants. One of the most best questions we were asked was around the music in our sessions: what kind of music do we use during our visits to people living with dementia in care homes? More specifically, people wanted to know if there was a certain genre or style of music that we used.

Of course we had to answer such a great question! During our care home sessions, we use a mix of music – some of which is more popular than others. But that all depends on the individuals, and as we’ve found working with those living with dementia, a change of song can completely change a mood for the better.

That’s because music is a great tool for reminiscing. Have you ever heard a snippet of a song from years ago, and felt all those memories surge back about being on holiday or at a party? For the individuals we work with, this can be absolutely crucial to their happiness. If an individual recognises a piece of music from their favourite era, it can spark memories which in turn create great conversations. We’ve previously had residents reluctant to join in – but that all changes when they hear music they can relate to. Instant mood change!

We’ve met ballroom dancers, ballet dancers and singers who have all told their stories and even show us some moves, all because of a piece of music played in a session. It’s a wonderful moment to witness, and is testament to the power of music.

What’s more, this type of reminiscence is great to do anywhere – at home or on the go. If you know someone living with dementia, start by having a chat about music they like – perhaps songs from their childhood, or genres they enjoy. Engaging in conversation is a great activity in itself! Chatting with someone living with dementia and finding out more about them, makes them feel valued and gives them a sense of belonging. If after talking you find they like a particular artist or band, pop on one of their CDs or, if they like a mix, why not make a compilation? Then simply sit back and see where the music takes you. And of course, be prepared to talk, sing and dance the day away!

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