Music can be a powerful medicine for people experiencing symptoms of memory loss. The right song has the power to help those with Alzheimer’s and dementia reconnect with their loved ones, relive joyful experiences and experience a higher quality of life.

The Science Behind Music and Memory Care

Numerous studies have attempted to explain the powerful impact music can have on those living with memory loss.

A report published in the August 2015 issue of Brain: A Journal of Neurology theorized that musical memory is at least somewhat independent from other forms of memory — meaning the brain may process songs and musical experiences differently than other memories.

This could explain why musical memory remains so strong in people experiencing symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It could also explain why music has been linked with improved cognitive function among those living with the disease.

In addition to cognitive changes, music can also dramatically boost one’s mood. Playing songs your loved one enjoys can help reduce anxiety and make activities like eating and bathing less stressful. Music has also been shown to ease the negative symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Music and Memory Care at Home

If you’re caring for someone with dementia, there are multiple ways you can make music part of your daily routine. With the right setup, you can create a musical oasis in your home — giving your loved one a safe place to relax, restore and relive their favorite musical memories.

To start, you’ll want to create a playlist of the person’s favorite songs. If your loved one is an avid music lover, you may already know their top songs, albums and genres.

But if you don’t, don’t worry. The dementia-certified caregiving teams at Sonata Senior Living recommend starting with the hits. By playing the music that was popular during your loved one’s adolescence and adulthood — and gauging their reaction to each song — you can build a custom radio station that has the power to increase their quality of life and bring you closer together.

Pop Songs for Memory and Memory Care Playlists

Here are a few playlists to help you get started. These can be enjoyed for free on the Spotify app or website. For a small monthly fee, you can also listen to the songs on demand without commercial interruption.

Top songs of the 1930s

From Fred Astaire to Billie Holiday, this playlist covers the best of the big band and swing era.

Top songs of the 1940s

In addition to the big bands, jazz and country music gained popularity in the 1940s. This playlist includes hits from Duke Ellington and Gene Autry.

Top songs of the 1950s

The 1950s brought the first wave of rock-n-rollers, with singers like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly forever changing the music scene.

Top songs of the 1960s

The 1960s was another major turning point for music. In addition to the British Invasion, this decade saw a rise in folk music, psychedelic rock and experiential jazz. 

At Sonata Senior Living, our memory care communities incorporate the latest research behind music and Alzheimer’s to help our residents enjoy a higher quality of life. To learn more about this special programming, call a community near you to schedule a visit →

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A Free Guide To Music & Memory Loss


Music has a profound impact on people living with memory impairment. Download An Introduction to Music & Memory Loss to learn how music can improve quality of life for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

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