Throwback Thursday – My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme

The My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme is a project we worked on a few years ago, making it a perfect subject for this week’s Throwback Thursday post.

What was the project about?

The My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme was devised by the Alzheimer’s Society and provided a music reminiscence programme exclusively for people living with dementia, comprising personalised, hour-long, weekly group sessions.

It aimed to empower people living with dementia to engage within their community through participation and enjoyment of specially tailored music, artefacts (LP covers, photos, and personal photos), and percussion instruments.

The My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme also aimed to provide opportunities for respite and support for family carers by encouraging fellow carers to share their experiences with each other in a separate room. Sessions were run by a session leader, with support from several volunteers. During the project two parallel series of seven sessions were conducted in North and South Worcestershire.

Personalised playlists and booklets were prepared for each couple who took part. These booklets included relevant photos and snippets of information about how the participant responded during the sessions or the significance of each track. The provision of these personalised playlists and booklets was intended to encourage continued engagement and improved interaction within each couple.

Montage of music related images

How was it evaluated?

The Association for Dementia Studies was commissioned to evaluate the programme and we undertook several evaluation activities:

  • Carer focus groups prior to each series of sessions;
  • Carer and volunteer focus groups immediately following the final session of each series;
  • An interview with the Session Leader at the end of each series;
  • Follow-up face-to-face interviews with each participating dyad approximately 6-8 weeks after their final session.
  • Participant observation of the majority of the sessions, using the ‘Creative Expressive Activities Assessment’, an observation tool specifically marketed for assessment of the impact of creative interventions;
  • Participant observation sheets completed at the end of every session by each volunteer.

What were the findings from the evaluation?

The evaluation indicated that the My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme had a positive impact on all who were involved; indeed many of the carers and volunteers expressed a desire for the programme to continue indefinitely.

The main successful elements of this programme included:

  • Providing a unique opportunity for people living with dementia and their carers to spend time with their peers;
  • The small size of the groups, combined with a high ratio of experienced, volunteers to participants;
  • The ability of these volunteers to converse and reminisce with participants about the local area;
  • An experienced, person-centred session leader, whose familiarity with the local area promoted personalised reminiscence;
  • An accessible venue that could accommodate the needs of participants and carers;
  • Considerable preparation for each session;
  • The provision of a personalised playlist and booklet that enabled ongoing benefit to those dyads who made use of them.

What did participants and carers think about it?

“he was over the moon when we came out, you know, it really, it does him good.”

“…when he first started off he didn’t open his mouth, now he sings…”

“He was on top of the world, and you could see he got the interest back, he didn’t just sit down and look into space”

“It’s turned into quite a social event hasn’t it, it’s not all about the music.”

Further information

An article about the project with more detailed findings has been published: Evans, S., Garabedian, C. and Bray, J. (2017). ‘Now he sings’. The My Musical Memories Reminiscence Programme: Personalised interactive reminiscence sessions for people living with dementia. Dementia, 18(3), 1181–1198

For more information about the project please contact us on

Connect with ADS on twitter @DementiaStudies and on Facebook @adsuow

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