Power of Music & Dementia

THE QUESTION NO ONE WAS ASKING... IS IT MUSIC OR MEMORY

The Power of Music & Dementia was a pioneering study founded by singer songwriter and innovator Beatie Wolfe that was the first to look at the power of music unconnected to memory for people living with dementia. Wolfe’s study (kindly supported by the Utley Foundation) was published in: The Times, Independent, BBC Radio 4, WIRED, Stanford University, Forbes. She has given keynotes about it at WIRED’s conference, DLD Health, Social Innovation Summit, NASA, Apple Town Hall, Berklee Music College & US Alzheimer’s Association. Since beginning the Power of Music and Dementia research project in 2014 Wolfe has been campaigning this cause and her research study has been:

  • picked up by Stanford Research, the American Alzheimer’s Association & Oxford University

  • read at the House of Lords as part of an initiative to get all music in UK care homes by 2020

  • used to develop the UK programme/campaign Music for Dementia 2020

 
One of the first experiments into its impact
— The Times 12.05.2015

The Study

Beatie Wolfe - Power of Music and Dementia - Porto carehome performance.jpg

The Power of Music & Dementia research tour began in 2014 with the aim to objectively prove the power of music, in this case music unconnected to memory, for people living with dementia. Beatie performed her original music at a series of Priory Group care homes across the UK. Residents were monitored during the live performance and in the weeks following, listening to the same songs on headsets. This study was the first of its kind to test the impact of new music for those living with dementia. Highlight responses include “72% responding to the music in meaningful ways e.g. singing along, clapping, tapping” and significant improvements in memory and communication. Some of the amazing reactions to the music were captured in the above documentary video.

To name a few breakthrough moments:

  • Anne, who had not spoken in 7 months, started singing along to songs that she had never heard before

  • David’s family had stopped visiting because it was too painful. The carers were hopeful that the music would produce some sign of engagement that they could share with David’s family to say “he’s still here”. Before the music began, nothing could rouse David. Then within the first few bars of the first song, David’s arm started to move, in perfect time to the music. Then his eyes went wide. Later in the set he got up and he danced

  • Edna was besides herself with grief, feeling "worthless" and alone in a room full of people. At the start of the music she sat sobbing uncontrollably but during the performance she quickly found her confidence and transformed into a joyful state, clapping and singing along

 
Music is a fantastic way of communicating and expressing themselves and has been evident here today
— Asa Johnson, Anchor Care Group
 
We witnessed the powerful effect and joy that music can have on those in different stages of dementia
— Stephen Amos, The Priory Group
 
all made possible with these fantastic folk!

all made possible with these fantastic folk!

The FINDINGS

The 'Power of Music & Dementia' results - a video documentary (below) and research report - are hugely positive and provide compelling data which can significantly alter the way people care for those living with dementia and how they can engage and connect via the power of music... if it is music and not simply memory stirring the soul and creating the magic, then the field opens up to new and wonderful possibilities for dementia care 

72% Responded to Music

Improvements In communication & memory

comms & memory cropped.png
 

Stanford University Medical School interview Beatie Wolfe about her dementia work

 

Beatie Wolfe Addresses the Alzheimer's Association of America

The research has shown that proactive and stimulating music events, like Beatie’s, have significant positive & lasting effects for people living with dementia.
— Bob Peters, 20/20 Research Ltd

Beatie Wolfe's Personal Story

Inspired by neurologist Oliver Sacks, who detailed the power of music for a range of ailments, Beatie was particularly moved by his accounts of using familiar and personal music to provide that vital "way in" for those living with dementia 

After discovering that her American Grandmother had dementia, Beatie decided on her next visit that she would take her guitar and play to her. The positive effects were immediate. Following this, Beatie was inspired to play to a relative living in a care home in Portugal with advanced dementia. When the Director of the home heard, he asked if Beatie would mind playing to the whole dementia ward of 100+ patients. On this occasion, Beatie’s music was entirely unfamiliar to the residents and there was no lyrical connection to draw upon - as none of the residents spoke English. Beatie was amazed to watch individuals waking up, singing along, clapping and fully engaging with the music and the Director of the care home describing it as “the best he had ever seen the group” in his 10 years there

Returning to the UK with this experience fresh in her mind, Beatie realised that she wanted something more concrete to share than simply a powerful anecdote and decided then to take this further as so began 'Power of Music & Dementia' 

 
Beatie’s music had an amazing effect on the residents and an incalculable value to the humanization of care
— Dr Pedro Pinto Monteiro, Montepio Care Home Director (Portugal)

Reception 

This pilot study has been called "profound" and “a first of its kind” by The Times, "a musical miracle" by The Independent, "ground-breaking" by BBC Radio 4, “inspired” by WIRED and "extraordinary" by Forbes. Beatie was invited to present at DLD Health in Munich, Social Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley, WIRED’s Conference in London, The Royal Institution, UCSD, Berklee Music College, SXSW's first european event, Apple HQ and NASA

 

Further Power of Music and Dementia Highlights from Beatie Wolfe