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Tune in to the Benefits: How Music Evokes Strong Emotions in People with Dementia

Cormac Stanford

It’s not new news that music has the power to ignite emotions and stimulate brain activity. Historians and scientists have known that music has a calming effect on humans and animals for centuries, but recent research and studies being conducted with people with dementia and other memory loss conditions like Alzheimer’s have correlated music with improved cognition. And considering that music has often been referred to as the heartbeat of life and one of the universal joys celebrated across race, language, culture, and even a vast range of ability, this finding is not at all surprising!

The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, or AFA, posts on its website, “When used appropriately, music can shift mood, manage stress-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, facilitate cognitive function and coordinate motor movements.” Practical Neurology, a journal for the speciality of neurology, corroborates this assertion: “Music. . . provide[s] a link to a person’s past and promote interconnection with caregivers and others with dementia. Recent findings suggest that musical training delays cognitive decline and promotes brain plasticity in the elderly brain.”

Musical Magic for Memory Loss
The middle stages of dementia are often marked by increased agitation and myriad behavioural complexities. However, the power of music has shown that it can reduce some of these symptoms or slow down decline. Triggering emotion and memories, even those in the mid-to-late stages can remember lyrics from long ago or respond to music in physical ways—from tapping their feet and clapping their hands, or even being moved or propelled to dance. (See the YouTube video of a former professional ballerina and her memory of performing Swan Lake)

For family members and caregivers, playing music is a therapeutic way to spark universal joy—by resulting in a potential physical reaction, from a small foot tap to an impromptu twirl. This response is emblematic of the human impulse to express contentment, relaxation, or happiness. Since Relish’s mission is to support the wellbeing of those with dementia and their caregivers, it’s no surprise that they’ve created a radio designed specifically for those living with dementia.

Blending a retro-nostalgic aesthetic with a contemporary modern finish, the Relish Radio has large buttons, contrasting colours, and an easy-to-use control panel—features that are sure to make it a favourite for family members or providers caring for a person living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Further design features provide an optimal listening experience for music lovers with dementia, such as a volume knob that never goes to zero (so the user will always know this is on), as well as buttons with unique sounds to ensure that the user recognises or presses the right ones.

The personalisation panel is the ultimate design touch unique to the Relish Radio. Each station can be preset and according to the listener’s musical preferences, such as ‘News’, ‘Swinging 60s’, ‘Afternoon Music’, ‘Relaxing Music’; or create a personalised ‘My Favourites’ channel by having the caregiver upload a curated playlist. And, unusual for radios made for people with dementia or other memory loss conditions, the Relish Radio has a focus on quality and style, both in sound and design. The 3-watt speakers bring sound precision and clarity, with a design that matches the finest, top-of-the-line radios.

The new Relish Radio’s design will enable people with all stages of dementia to listen to the music they can identify with either independently or with the assistance of a family member or caregiver. But if you are a caregiver and are unsure of the music that your loved one or person living with dementia once loved or are looking for stories of musical inspiration, Relish’s has some favourites. Get the feels from this excerpt from Sundance Film Festival’s winning documentary from 2014: “Alive Inside: A Story of Music & Memory”, or see more of the science behind the theory in ABC Science’s YouTube Channel video called “Music on the Brain: The Soundtrack of Our Lives”.

For more information on enriching the lives and lifting the spirits of people living with dementia by filling them with music, please visit Relish-life.com to view our digital catalog of products. And don’t forget to keep on the lookout for our industry-changing and groundbreaking Relish Radio!