What would life be – without a song or dance, what are we?

Jan 18, 2018 | REPORTS

A report from the Commission on Dementia and Music.

This new report summarises the work of the Commission on Dementia and Music, set-up and coordinated by ILC-UK, with support from The Utley Foundation. With the number of people living with dementia in the UK expected to reach one million by 2025, this is a hugely important issue for society as a whole, and one which the ILC-UK has focussed on for over ten years.

Whilst dementia and music might seem like a niche topic, the work of the Commission has, for the first time, brought together experts, specialists, and people with dementia to examine the topic holistically. The Commission has outlined the value and benefits of music for people with dementia, whilst also looking at the important next steps which can be taken to ensure that everyone with dementia is able to access music.

The report provides a unique exploration of the existing ecosystem of music for people with dementia and brings together for the first time a wide range of evidence, including academic papers and written and oral evidence. Site visits to observe projects in action were also fundamental in bringing to light the value of this field of work.

The evidence shows that music helps to minimise some of the symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, and can help to tackle anxiety and depression. We can also observe the considerable value of music in improving the quality of life for people with dementia, by helping to increase social interaction and decreasing stress hormones.

Meanwhile, evidence suggests that there is a ‘memory bump’ for music. It appears that people with dementia retain the clearest memories for music they enjoyed and heard between roughly the ages of 10 and 30. This valuable insight offers us the opportunity to connect with loved ones with dementia, by understanding what might be most meaningful for them.

We are calling on the music industry, the public sector, clinicians, charities, the technology sector and others to recognise and champion the right of people with dementia to have access to music. We also want to raise public awareness about how music can be used to bring about valuable benefits and improve the lives of people with dementia.

Baroness Sally Greengross, Chief Executive, ILC-UK said:

“Despite growing evidence of the value of music for people with dementia, we are not seeing enough being done to improve access to appropriate music-based activities. When talking about specialist music therapy, current availability only equates to roughly 30 seconds per week per person with dementia, meaning that very few individuals are benefitting from this valuable intervention.”

Sally Bowell, Research Fellow, ILC-UK said:

“Music should not just be considered a nice-to-have, or an ‘add-on’. Music has tangible, evidence-based benefits for people with dementia, such as helping to minimise the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia, tackling depression and anxiety, and, importantly, helping to improve quality of life. We want to raise awareness of these important benefits and rally organisations and individuals alike to help champion access to music for people with dementia.”

Neil Utley, The Utley Foundation said:

“People with dementia often live in a silent world. Yet music can bring a person back to life. The ability to connect to music is an innate aspect of being human; having a diagnosis of dementia need not undermine this.”

Report authors: Sally Powell and Sally Marie Bamford
Explore the themes examined by the Commission
Find out more through a video produced by The Utley Foundation