Music in Aged Care

  • can bring peace of mind to the elderly & their carers
  • can be a catalyst for profound change for people in their later years
  • triggers early memories, physical, mental & emotional
  • offers everyone involved a way of communication
  • can be gateway for individual & collective stories
  • can be an expression of a state of being
music in aged care

‘Dementia strips people down to the essence of their being and frees them to be more directly in touch with their emotions. They communicate with greater authenticity than our customary conventional reliance on controlled emotional expression’– Faith Gibson.

‘We don’t stop playing because we grow old; but we grow old because we stop playing’ – Bernard Shaw

The film 'Beyond The Music'
music in aged care

When asked what it was like for her to play music in a secured dementia wing, Alkeiya replied:
“I leave a session of playing music in a secured dementia wing on top of the world, even if I have been having a bad hair day! I am humbled by the joy and stories participants have shared; I am filled with the moving vibrations of the music, with the images of smiling faces, and with the rich tapestry of our experience. It is the music-making we do together that is the catalyst for our connecting and for our shared happiness. From this place, profound changes can unfold.

Glimpses of Other Worlds (real situations, fictitious names)


Marie laughs as she is escorted down the corridor towards the room set aside for music making. Her laughing is a continuous tinkling cascade with intermittent ‘yes-yes’. As she enters the room our eyes meet and her face breaks into a huge smile as she yes yes’s and tinkle laughs. She looks directly at me as I sing hello to everyone. There are more ‘yes yes’’s and a big smile, as I sing hello to her.

As we sing together in our first song, ‘Music Music Music’, she sings the melody, at first with many extra sounds, and waves of other notes. After several songs, Marie at times ‘scat’ singing with me, she becomes quiet. A short time later tears are cascading down her face. After more songs including ‘My Blue Heaven’ and ‘Pearly Shells’, and some hugging and reassurance from those around her, Marie’s tears have subsided and she sings again with the melody. She leaves quieter, than when she arrived with some ‘yes yes’’s.

We are all drawn into her world: in joy with her as she sings, and sad for her when she cries. We are all richer for the experience.

frothy waves

Julia spends her time sitting in a world of tunes she hums to herself. She delights when others sing, then makes remarks such as ‘that was a good one’ or ‘you know he should have socks’ or ‘see that there has to go’ or ‘it’s a good colour that one’ or ‘that’s very big, you know’. She often laughs after making her observations and enjoys a ‘joke with others’. She is delusional, with ready comments, accepting any one’s mood as OK.

She is a pleasure to sing with, coming out with words, melodies and the melody lines of other instruments. After a stirring rendition of ‘la cucaracha’ she called out ‘That was fun’, and then said, before covering her face with her jumper, ‘And that’s not all!’ Julia is not fazed by other’s agitation; she is a sort after companion by some of the most agitated residents.

eagle on rock

Herbert can be heard outside the secure dementia ward, yelling angrily. He says the same thing many times. ‘Why can’t I go home?’ or ‘ When is my wife coming?’ or ‘This is a bad place!’ At these times, his favourite place to stand is inside the door. Meeting him there, I stand with him, agreeing with all his reasons for being angry. After several minutes he may have calmed enough for me to say; ‘would you like to come to music today?’

He loves music and whistles along to the tunes either joining us or standing in the corridor so he can see the entrance as well as hear the music and listen or join in. At times when I arrive he is lost in a memory, raving incoherently and waiting. When I approach him his face will break into a broad grin and he will say how wonderful the music is.

Dawn Sky