AgeRight Blog


How One Assisted Living Community used Music to Help People with Alzheimer’s

The Institute for Music and Neurologic Function reports that early research on the therapeutic effects of music indicates that it may help improve scores on cognitive function tests.  In addition, it is already well established that music improves the mood, alertness and quality of life of someone living with Alzheimer’s disease and can be used as a powerful tool.

Putting the latest research to work at an assisted living community

At Compass on the Bay, a Boston area memory care community, local musician Doug Robinson runs a “Music Focus” program. The customized group program is based on the participants’ interests, life history, cultural backgrounds and their personal responses to particular songs. Doug and the staff have noted increased alertness, focus and recollection in each of the groups.

In another project, Doug is interviewing residents to learn about their favorite music and creating personalized music playlists for them. They have become very popular with residents. They have also been used effectively by the staff at the community to help manage difficult behaviors associated with dementia, offering a distraction and calming influence for someone who becomes agitated.

“The music begins and hands begin to tap the beat, faces open and faded memories come to life. Clear recollections and memories pour out about first dances, skipping school to see a band, musical concerts, choirs and love songs. You would not believe they are living with Alzheimer’s!”

— Doug Robinson, musician & group leader

The gift of music boosts confidence in those with memory loss

In addition to entertaining residents and creating musical playlists for them, Doug encourages residents with a musical past to play at his keyboard. One resident opted to do that with amazing results.

At the age of 14, Gloria performed in a piano concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. Hours of practice led to her playing Malaguena from Spanish Suite Andalucia by Ernesto Lecuona, with great composure and precision.

Now, more than 60 years later, she is a resident at Compass on the Bay, coping daily with memory loss. She has been reluctant to play at the piano, fearing embarrassment at the loss of perfection in her original pieces. However, with great pride, she recently played her own piece from Carnegie Hall in one of the Music Focus groups with Doug Robinson. Placing her fingers on the keys, her memories began to flow along with the music, as she shared her experience and recollections from her original concert.

One company’s ongoing commitment to music

Compass on the Bay is a Senior Living Residences (SLR) community. SLR’s memory care professionals in all of it Compass Memory Support communities create and implement musical programming that has proved to be effective in research. These programs allow for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease to maximize their ability to connect to themselves and their own experiences. Innovative programming is measured in individual accomplishments. Re-playing an important concert, remembering your past and connecting with your own self with pride is a true measure of innovation.

© 2024 Senior Living Residences LLC