Power of Music & Dementia

Beatie Wolfe is a singer songwriter, innovator and co-founder of the Power of Music & Dementia study published in: The Times, Independent, BBC Radio 4, Stanford University, Forbes. She has held keynotes at WIRED’s conference, DLD Health, Social Innovation Summit, UCSD, Apple Town Hall, Berklee Music College & US Alzheimer’s Association

One of the first experiments into its impact
— The Times 12.05.2015

Intention

Neurologist Oliver Sacks concludes Musicophilia by stating that “music is a necessity for those with dementia” and while Sacks had tested the familiar music route, he theorises that “music does not have to be familiar to exert its emotional pull.”

Beatie Wolfe's intention with Power of Music & Dementia is to show how novel music can have transformative effects too.  

Beatie Wolfe’s overarching intention for this project is to the furthering of research in this area, to the humanisation of care and to the wider application of music programmes within home, care homes and care facilities

Made possible with the generous support of The Utley Foundation

Beatie Wolfe dementia collaboration with Punchdrunk Enrichment 

Beatie Wolfe dementia collaboration with Punchdrunk Enrichment 

Personal Story

Inspired by neurologist Oliver Sacks, who detailed the power of music for a range of ailments from Parkinson’s through to autism, Beatie was particularly moved by his accounts of using familiar and personal music to provide that vital "way in" for those living with dementia. 

After discovering that her American Grandmother had been diagnosed with dementia, Beatie had the opportunity to see the amazing impact of the music first-hand when she performed to her. Following this experience, Beatie decided to play music to a relative living in a care home in Portugal. However what was meant to be a performance for a single individual ended up being for the entire dementia ward, of some 100 patients. On this occasion, Beatie’s music was entirely unfamiliar to the residents and there was also no lyrical connection to draw upon - as none of the residents spoke any English. Beatie was amazed to watch individuals waking up from being asleep, singing along, clapping and fully engaging with the music and the director of the care home describing it as “the best he had ever seen the group” in his 10 years directorship. 

Returning to the UK with this experience fresh in her mind, Beatie realised that she wanted something more concrete to share than simply a powerful anecdote and decided then to take this further. 

 
 

Pilot Study

Teaming up with The Utley Foundation, the former marketing director of HSBC, the Priory Care Home Group and 20/20 Research, Beatie set out the following objective to conduct a research tour with the aim of recreating the magic of Portugal but this time with some parameters in place for capturing and analysing the data.

Beatie Wolfe performed her original music at a series of Priory Group care homes across the UK. Residents were monitored during the live performance by carers and doctors and then in the weeks following listening to the same songs on headsets. This study ran for four months and is the first of its kind to test the impact of novel music (unconnected to past and memory) for those living with dementia. Highlight responses include “over 72% responding to the music in meaningful ways e.g. singing along, clapping, tapping” and significant improvements in memory and communication across the 4-month period that the study ran. Some of the amazing reactions to the music were captured in this documentary video:

 
 

 

To name a few breakthrough moments:

  • Anne, who had not spoken in 7 months, started singing along with great volume to songs that she had never heard before

  • David’s family had stopped visiting because it was too difficult to see him inert and out of it. The carers were hopeful that the music would produce some sign of engagement that they could share with David’s family to say “he’s still here”. Before the music began nothing could rouse David, then within the first few bars of the first song, David’s arm started to move in perfect time to the music. Then his eyes went wide. Later in the set he got up and he danced.

  • Edna was besides herself with grief, feeling "worthless" and alone in a room full of people. At the start of the music she sat sobbing uncontrollably but during the performance she quickly found her confidence and transformed into a joyful state, clapping and singing along.

The Findings

The 'Power of Music & Dementia' results - a video documentary (below) and research report - are hugely positive and provide data which can significantly alter the way people care for those living with dementia and how they can engage and connect via the power of music

Significant Improvements In communication & memory

Significant Improvements In Communication & Memory

72% Responded to Music

 
The research has shown that proactive and stimulating music events can have significant positive and lasting effects for people living with dementia.
— Bob Peters, 20/20 Research Ltd

Stanford University Interviews Beatie Wolfe on their TV Channel

 

Beatie Wolfe Addresses the Alzhiemer's Association of America

 
We witnessed the powerful effect and joy that music can have on those in different stages of dementia
— Stephen Amos, The Priory Group
Beatie’s music had an amazing effect on the residents and an incalculable value to the humanization of care
— Dr Pedro Pinto Monteiro, Montepio Care Home Director (Portugal)
Music is a fantastic way of communicating and expressing themselves and has been evident here today
— Asa Johnson, Anchor Care Group

Reception 

This pilot study has been called "profound" and “a first of its kind” by The Times, "a musical miracle" by The Independent, "ground-breaking" by BBC Radio 4 and “inspiring” by WIRED. Beatie was invited to present at DLD Health in Munich, Social Innovation Summit in Silicon Valley (in the process met Stephen Friend), WIRED’s Conference in London, The Royal Institution, UCSD, Berklee Music College and Apple’s HQ theatre. 

The Independent - Dementia & Power of Music - Beatie Wolfe

"A musical miracle for dementia ..."

Independent - Beatie Wolfe

Hear BBC Radio 4's extended segment on PM

The Times - Power of Music & Dementia - Beatie Wolfe
Virgin - Dementia & Power of Music - Beatie Wolfe

"Listening to new music improves memory ..."

"Music could be the best medicine ... "

The Times - Beatie Wolfe

"Using music to treat dementia..."