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Music and Memory pilot program – findings

The CSO recently completed the eight-week Music and Memory pilot program for people with dementia, The unique program was developed in collaboration with Heather Roche, a third-year Bachelor of Psychology student at the University of Canberra, and delivered in partnership with Goodwin Aged Care Services and ActewAGL. Concert programming was based on the musical preferences of participants.

Over the course of eight weeks, a statistically significant reduction in disruptive behaviours was observed:

  • Insecurity and restlessness were measured by the frequency of behaviours such as hoarding / hiding objects, agitation at the end of the day and nocturnal restlessness. A significant reduction was observed between the beginning of the program and week four (p=0.001) and again between week four and week eight (p=0.001).
  • There was also a significant reduction in repetitive behaviours such as pacing, aimless wandering, repetitive utterances and unwarranted requests for help (p=0.001).
  • There was also a reduction in the frequency of physical and verbal aggression during the program.

Anecdotally, improvements in mood and increased social interaction were also observed. For example, one participant who often arrived in a negative mood would be smiling by the end of the concert. For others, the music inspired singing, dancing or the recall of treasured memories.

One of the key benefits we observed was the calming effect of the music across the study group. The design and delivery also made it possible to build rapport with the participants and connect on a social, as well as musical, level.

Kristen Sutcliffe
CSO program lead

Feedback from care staff was very positive, with no negative effects reported.

Given the increasing prevalence of dementia across the community, research into how music can help and how music therapy can be delivered is timely and worthy of further exploration.

Music and Memory: Emerging findings [PDF 234KB]

Media release [PDF 173KB]

Music has always been a part of life at Goodwin. It’s great to see the positive effects highlighted through this program.

Jamie Fillingham
Executive Director of Care
Goodwin Aged Care Services

We’re energised by the emerging findings of this program, which shine a light on the ways music can make an impact in the lives of people with dementia.

Sean Davis
Group Manager of Strategic Partners and Energy Solutions

More information

CSO Community Programs are supported by the ACT Government.

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