Professional Comment

The Transformative Role of Music in Care Communities

By Paul Drury, Chief Operating Officer at The Eric Liddell Community (

In life, where memories intertwine with the present, there’s a profound need for companionship, understanding, and support – especially for those navigating the complexities of dementia. We know that Dementia isn’t just a medical condition; it’s a complicated journey for over 90,000 people in Scotland today, marked by profound emotional upheaval and huge uncertainty. As such, we believe that approaches to this delicate type of care must transcend clinical protocols and embrace the little things when it comes to human experience. For example, music!

When the ‘rhythm’ of life slows to a gentle rhythm in the quiet corridors of care facilities, music can be a powerful force and breathe vibrancy and vitality into the lives of those who need it most. What we have found is that for those navigating the complexities of dementia, the role of music surpasses mere entertainment—it becomes a lifeline. A conduit for connection, and a source of comfort.

In my time in my role, I personally have witnessed first-hand the great impact of music in nurturing mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing among the 3,500 people benefiting from our Dementia Day Care Services every year. We have all been exposed to music in some way in our lives – whether by listening to recordings, playing an instrument, attending concerts, or dancing. From lively sing-alongs to serene music therapy sessions, partaking in a symphony of experiences when living with dementia can awaken hidden memories, stir dormant emotions, and reignite feelings of joy and camaraderie.

In fact, a study comparing standard care to regular singing or music listening sessions over 10 weeks in 89 people with dementia (type not specified), music sessions improved general cognition (MMSE score), attention, and executive function compared to standard care . Singing appeared to evoke personal remote memories by increasing recall of names of children, friends, and immediate short story recall.

One of our flagship programmes, the Music Wellbeing Programme, stands as a testament to the power of communal music-making. Led by talented musicians and dedicated staff members, this dementia-inclusive activity serves as a sanctuary where residents and caregivers alike gather to share stories, create melodies, and forge lasting connections. Through familiar tunes, we witness the emergence of radiant smiles, the tapping of feet, and the stirring of long-forgotten memories, as residents reclaim moments of joy and belonging. Music really does serve as a universal language for us all, overcoming factors such as age, cognition, and physical ability.

Could your centre or service partner with local entertainers or other community organisations to incorporate music within your care community? From lively dance performances to intimate acoustic sessions, these collaborative endeavours create an environment with an infectious energy, lifting spirits and fostering a sense of collective celebration.

The Eric Liddell Community stands as a centre of hope, redefining the landscape of dementia care with innovation, compassion, and inclusivity. Our namesake – a Scottish legend, sports person, and missionary – strived to create a world where no one felt isolated or alone. Where every individual’s journey is met with dignity and respect.

Based on the substantial evidence that music offers numerous health benefits, we’d highly recommend that your establishment considers introducing music, entertainment, and community engagement. Together we can all create moments of joy, connection, and meaning for those who need it most.