Sharing Story & Song with People Living with Dementia

by Rita Akins, Montessori Images, Company founder

A Whole Brain Workout
Just as reading is one of the last functions lost in dementia, musical memory is accessible even in the late stages of memory disorders when only some brain tissue is still capable of functioning normally. Because musical perception is processed throughout the entire brain, music activates all areas of brain tissue, making it a “whole brain workout.”

The Songs that Resonate
Music is an extension of who we are. The songs we remember resonate deeply because of the feelings that we attach to them. They’re tied to strong, emotional moments and experiences in our lives, especially music that dates back to our earliest memories (at least 25 years).

The American classic, “Fly Me to the Moon,” is one such example. In The Quite Extraordinary Piano Man the reading of the narrative (via text or illustrations) helps to set the scene, while the song “Fly Me to the Moon” suggests a romantic atmosphere of singing and dancing that resonates. In combination, the narrative and the song work to enhance cognition and memory recall.

Connected in the moment
The sharing of story and song is a unifying experience that enables people with dementia to feel connected in the moment with peers, family members and care partners alike. It is beneficial and meaningful socialization that can result in:

  • Increased alertness and orientation
  • Improved verbal communication
  • Eye contact and physical contact, such as holding hands and swaying to the music (especially when live music or recorded music is used)
  • Synchronous movement, such as feet tapping and hand clapping, that subconsciously brings a feeling of connection.

Everyone is more relaxed
Most people have a positive relationship with music. Finishing the story with a group sing (maybe even a little dancing . . . ) helps all participants to relax and enjoy the experience. Group singing affords a sense of agency and a platform for self-expression for people living with dementia. For a few moments, stress and anxiety is alleviated for all as a community of older adults, family members and care partners alike relax and share in the joy of story and song.

Our partners at Montessori Images have created a new high-quality resource for people living with Dementia! We recommend that you check out this product, as well as their other materials for people living with dementia.

Story and Song for Older Adults™ combines the cognitive and social benefits of reading aloud with the power of music and singing to create a joyful experience for those living with dementia. Short, illustrated stories feature large-print text and full-page, high-contrast color illustrations, with a question at the end of each page of text to encourage conversation and interaction. Stories include large-type song lyrics for sing alongs with family members, care partners or peers.

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