An updated Cochrane Review concludes that music therapy might be of benefit for some persons living with dementia under certain circumstances, some of the time, probably…
“Providing people with dementia who are in institutional care with at least five sessions of a music-based therapeutic intervention probably reduces depressive symptoms and improves overall behavioural problems at the end of treatment. It may also improve emotional well-being and quality of life and reduce anxiety, but may have little or no effect on agitation or aggression or on cognition. We are uncertain about effects on social behaviour and about long-term effects”.
van der Steen, JT. Smaling, HJ. van der Wouden, JC. [et al] (2018). Music-based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. July 23rd 2018; 7: CD003477.
There is also an Executive Summary.
There are, nonetheless, plenty of anecdotal reports in favour of singing / community singing, endorsed by respectable academics.
Dementia patients ‘come alive’ in singing classes. London / Kent: BBC Health News / BBC Kent News, September 9th 2018.
Dementia patients’ singing therapy. London / Nottingham: BBC Health News / BBC Nottingham News, September 18th 2016.
Earlier, this time more concerning mental health rehabilitation:
Roxby, P. (2017). Community singing ‘improves mental health and helps recovery’. London: BBC Health News, December 21st 2017.
A recent singing and dementia review of possible interest:
Clark, IN. Tamplin, JD. [and] Baker, FA. (2018). Community-dwelling people living with dementia and their family caregivers experience enhanced relationships and feelings of well-being following therapeutic group singing: a qualitative thematic analysis. Frontiers in Psychology. July 30th 2018; 9: 1332.
May 2019 Updates
Oakes, K. (2019). The power of music: Vicky McClure’s dementia choir. London: BBC Health News / BBC News Stories, May 2nd 2019.
This relates to a two-part BBC One TV documentary:
Our Dementia Choir, with Vicky McClure, on BBC One. [Online]: BBC One, first broadcast 20:00 on May 2nd 2019.
BBC Music Memories: BBC Dementia-Friendly Resources
The BBC Music Memories website has been created to help people with dementia reconnect with meaningful musical memories and begin to create playlists of classical music, pop music and theme tunes. Only a relatively small selection of short “taster” excerpts is available, but this is possibly a useful start-point, from which to follow-up using commercial streaming services:
BBC Music Memories. [Online]: BBC, circa 2019.
The Memory Tracks Mobile App
Cunningham, S. Brill, M. [and] Whalley JH. [et al] (2020). Assessing wellbeing in people living with dementia using reminiscence music with a mobile app (Memory Tracks): a mixed methods cohort study. Journal of Healthcare Engineering. September 5th 2019; 2019: 8924273.