Using Music to Develop a Multisensory Communicative Environment for People With Late-Stage Dementia

Amy Clare, DClinPsych; Paul M. Camic, PhD; Sebastian J. Crutch, PhD; Julian West, BA; Emma Harding, Bsc; Emilie Brotherhood, Msc


Gerontologist. 2020;60(6):1115-1125. 

In This Article


This project investigated a live music group based on the Music for Life (Rose, 1993) approach, which uniquely brings together professional musicians, care staff, and people living with dementia through longitudinal interactive music sessions aiming to enhance quality of life. Cooke, Moyle, Shum, Harrison, and Murfield (2010) highlight the importance of individualizing interventions and therefore this study looked at live music facilitated by musicians using improvisation to interact with group participants. The current study built a conceptual understanding around communication that enables us to theorize how people with dementia express themselves nonverbally in response to music and in relation to other group members over time.

Specifically, the research sought to answer the following questions:

  1. What is the nature and range of communicative interactions between people with dementia, care staff and musicians within a Music for Life group?

  2. How does communication change over the course of the group sessions?