Evidence Summary

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Music can improve the well-being of older adults with dementia living in community settings

Elliott M & Gardner P.  The role of music in the lives of older adults with dementia ageing in place: A scoping review  Dementia. 2018 Feb; 17(2): 199-213.

Review question

•    What is the role and impact of music on the health and well-being of older adults with dementia who are living in community settings?


      Delaying institutionalization and remaining at home offers positive impacts for older adults with dementia and their caregivers. However, it is challenging to manage dementia in community settings.

      Traditional treatment options (including drug treatments) have been largely unsuccessful and have many negative side effects.

      Music appears to be a promising alternative to help manage dementia in the community, and to improve the health and social well-being of both older adults with dementia and their caregivers.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases was conducted to identify relevant studies. Authors did not indicate the dates searched in the literature. Studies that focused on dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, music therapy and community settings were included in the systematic review.

      A total of 444 studies were identified, and 17 were included in the systematic review after assessing their eligibility.

      The authors did not receive funding for this review.

What the researchers found

      This review found that music can reduce agitation, improve memory and enhance social well-being in older adults with dementia.

      Music was also shown to increase relaxation, comfort and happiness among caregivers.

      Further research is needed to better understand the perspective of older adults with dementia, as the current standard used to collect information is through caregivers.


      This systematic review found that music offers a promising alternative therapy for older adults with dementia living in community settings. Music was shown to have the following benefits: decreasing agitation, increasing memory and fostering social connections.

      Further study into the impact of music on the experiences of older adults living with dementia was recommended.


Systematic review
A comprehensive evaluation of the available research evidence on a particular topic.

Related Web Resources

  • Dementia in home and community care

    Canadian Institute for Health Information
    Adults with dementia that live at home have complicated care needs. This resource provides information about caregiving for a person with dementia, and about how to transition into long-term care.
  • Safeguarding adults
    Know the signs of abuse: frequent arguments with a caregiver, changes in personality, unexplained injuries, bruising, unusual weight loss or unsafe living conditions. Ask doctors, social workers or community nurses for support if you or someone you know might be abused. Contact the police if someone you know is in physical danger.
  • Alzheimer's and memories: Use mementos as cues

    Mayo Clinic
    Help preserve memories for someone with Alzheimer’s. Create an electronic folder or special box with photos and letters. Talk together or with people who know her/him to hear and document meaningful stories.
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