Posts Tagged music

Listen to and/or Sing Holiday Music

holiday music 2


Holiday music is an excellent medium to connect with our person with dementia. Whether we are singing fragments of songs throughout the day, or playing ambient music while baking a special treat, we can incorporate a little bit of holiday magic into our person’s day.

Stay warm, take care of yourself, laugh a lot, spend time with those you care about, and have a prosperous new year! Be safe and enjoy the holiday season!!

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Listen to Pandora or Groove Shark

pandora internet radio


Listening to music is one of my favorite things to do. I love how a song has the power to overwhelm you with emotion or transport you back in time to a special memory. Truth be told, every time I hear Green Day’s “Time of Your Life” I instantly think of my senior prom (our class song).

We all have songs that are significant to us, and individuals with dementia are no exception. Think of the song that reminds you of your first love or the song that always cheers you up. If we know these things about our person, then we have an excellent opportunity to foster meaningful engagement. Encourage the person to reminisce and tell stories related to the songs they hear. Listening to music is an excellent choice of activity for those with dementia because the individual retains the ability to do this very late into the disease. Even someone who is nonverbal or bed bound can enjoy a beautiful peace of music that is meaningful to him/her. There are some remarkable accounts of individuals in the late stages of the disease that can no longer carry on a conversation but can still sing.

So what makes Pandora and Groove Shark so special?  They’re both free and totally customizable. If you’d like to check out Pandora, simply go to, create an account, and start creating stations. You can choose a song, artist, or genre for each station. Consider asking the person what their favorite artist is, or select music that you know was popular during their adolescence and adulthood. Timeless pieces, like Christmas carols or religious music, can be meaningful to a wide variety of individuals. You can even pick a station like Sounds of Nature, if you are looking to play soothing, ambient music. is another great resource for finding free music online. If you know what songs you want to listen to, you can create your own customized playlist by adding them to your queue. You can also enter in search criteria, such as Oldies, babbling brook, 1950s, etc., to find music that you may want to use.

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Dance with a Kinect


Before we can really even start this post, I need you to go here.  Go ahead, I’ll wait. 

Okay.  Now that you’re back, if you don’t know what the Kinect game screen looks like, visit here for a peak.

Clearly this lady is having a ton of fun.  I have no idea what her cognitive status is, but that doesn’t really matter to me.  What matters is that the Kinect dance games are very intuitive. You simply listen to the music, watch the dancers on-screen, and mimic their movements.  Those in the later stages of the disease may find it easier to follow the moves or a real life person (which means you get to dance, too). A player with any amount of dementia may need help getting the right song playing, but the dancing should come pretty naturally.  Someone, please correct me if I’m wrong, but even if you’re moves don’t match the game at all, the song won’t end early, right?  So even if you make up your own dance, it doesn’t really matter, though it’s lots of fun to see if you can do it!

Two popular dancing-games using the connect are Just Dance and Dance Central.  Both have multiple version out there, and there are probably many other games with a similar concept as well.  Know of one?  Leave it in the comments!




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Try Zumba Gold

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Zumba, per the company website, Zumba is “an exhilarating, effective, easy-to-follow, Latin-inspired, calorie-burning dance fitness-party.”  I might simplify that explanation to “it’s Jazzercise, but with Latin Music,” but that’s just me. 

In any case, Zumba Gold is their class specifically for older adults.   Again, per the company website, Zumba Gold: 

“takes the Zumba formula and modifies the moves and pacing to suit the needs of the active older participant, as well as those just starting their journey to a fit and healthy lifestyle. What stays the same are all the elements the Zumba Fitness-Party is known for: the zesty Latin music, like salsa, merengue, cumbia and reggaeton; the exhilarating, easy-to-follow moves; and the invigorating, party-like atmosphere. Active older adults want camaraderie, excitement and fitness as a regular part of their weekly schedule. Zumba Gold is the perfect fit. It’s a dance-fitness class that feels friendly, and most of all, fun.”

Zumba gold is not specifically for those with memory loss, but those int he mild stage of the disease should be able to get the hang of it, especially if a friend or family member goes with them to help out. 

Click here for a fun video example.

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Visit the Motown Museum

The Motown Museum is a fabulous, fun look at the musical legacy of Detroit.  Admission is inexpensive-just $10-and the tour is fully guided, so you get lots of fun facts and personalized attention during your visit.   A brief description of the tour: you’ll see a short video, walk the building to see memorabilia, the Jackson 5 clothing ensemble, Michael Jackson’s sequined glove and multiple record labels, tour the Berry Gordy family home, and finish in the recording studio. 

This is a great place to visit with people with memory loss as the subject matter is stored in long-term memory, which is well preserved, even in the later stages of the disease.  Another plus is that the museum is fully handicap accessible, so wheelchairs and walkers are no problem.

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Play “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”

When I was 16 I was lucky enough to be gifted my grandparents old car.  It was 15 years old, had no headliner,  was missing the hood ornament, and had a radio whose reception intermittently cut in and out.  However, it was a car and it was all mine, so I loved it.  Eventually, I even came to love the broken radio because my friends and invented “Kar Karoke” in which whenever the radio went out, the person who could continue singing the song that had been playing the longest, won.  We always joked that it would be a good game show, kind of a new twist on name that tune (coincidentally, the show “Don’t Forget the Lyrics”, in which contestants have to finish singing the lyrics to popular songs, debuted a decade or so after my friends and I first played in my car). 

You can make your own version of this game by either playing songs on CD, on record, or online and stopping it.  Or, you can simplifying sing the songs using only your voice.  The chorus or first verse of a song is generally the easiest to remember, but you may find that even the latter verses of favorite songs are still in long-term memory if you go looking for them.  Also, don’t be discouraged if the game is hard at first,  Sometimes singing the songs all the way through first helps to “prime” the memory, so when you sing it a second time with a few lyrics missing, it’s easier to remember. 

Of course, if playing “Don’t Forget the Lyrics” is too hard,  just have an old-fashioned sing along.  Some people find it helpful to have the lyrics of the song in front of them to help jog their memory, others find this distracting, so experiment and see what works best for you and your loved one.

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Go Caroling

The holidays are fast approaching and nothing gets me in the Christmas spirit like carols.  Whether you choose to go door to door spreading holiday cheer to your friends and neighbors…


(extra points if you dress like this)

 or stay snug in the comfort of you own home, caroling is fun all ages and ability levels. 

Even people with very limited abilities to talk often retain the ability to sing.  This is because “automatic” phrases, such as song lyrics, are stored and retrieved differently than individual words.  Therefore, familiar songs, like Christmas Carols, are a great way to stimulate the brain.  You might even find that if you sing the same song a few times in a row, the person with significant memory loss with remember more and more lyrics each time!

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Dancing is a great form of exercise, whether done with a partner or all by yourself.  Why not put on some old classics and make your living room a dance hall.  You might be surprised how lyrics and dance steps thought to be long forgotten are suddenly remembered once the music is on.  Even if the person can no longer do a perfectCharleston(or if you can’t!), that’s okay.  Just enjoy getting up and moving.  If the person is wheelchair or bed bound, grab their arms and dance in place.  Lots of important life events feature dancing, so see what memories come up.  Questions to ask: 

What was your wedding song? 

Did you go to any high school or USO dances? With who?

Who was your favorite singer/group?  Why?

Did you see anyone in concert when you were young? 

Who do you wish you had seen, but didn’t?


***Note: Please do not begin break-dancing, like this gentleman, without clearing it with your doctor first!***


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