Music and Dementia: How to Create a Playlist for Someone You Love

Posted on February 1, 2024

Music is a universal language that transcends cultural and linguistic boundaries and is equipped with the power to evoke emotions and memories. For individuals living with dementia, it can be a lifeline by offering solace, stimulating cognitive function, and providing a conduit for communication when words fail.

As a memory care provider in Tennessee, our team at The Pavilion Senior Living has seen firsthand how music can spark memories and comfort individuals with memory impairment. Our team is sharing guidance on creating personalized playlists for someone you love who is living with dementia, a simple tool with the potential to significantly enhance their quality of life.

Understanding the Needs of Those with Dementia

Dementia is a complex condition that presents distinctive challenges and considerations. It can affect memory, cognitive abilities, and emotional responses, making everyday activities increasingly challenging. In these situations, music can serve as a soothing balm, a source of joy, and a means to connect with the past.

Therefore, understanding the individual’s needs, preferences, and the unique way they experience music is crucial when creating a personalized playlist.

Choosing the Right Music

Choosing music for a dementia playlist is a deeply personal process. Start with genres and artists that your parent or family member has shown a preference for in the past. Familiar tunes from their youth or young adulthood can often evoke positive feelings and memories.

However, also consider calming and soothing genres. Instrumental music, classical pieces, or soft jazz can provide a peaceful atmosphere and help relieve anxiety or restlessness.

Creating a Playlist

A well-crafted playlist should include a variety of genres and eras, catering to different moods and times of the day. Start the playlist with familiar songs that are simple and easy to follow. These can provide comfort and stimulate memory recall.

As the playlist progresses, introduce a variety of genres and eras, making sure to intersperse calming tunes between more upbeat ones. It is also important to modify the playlist according to the time of day and the mood of the individual, using more lively tunes to stimulate morning activity and soothing music to wind down in the evening.

To further customize your playlist, recruit your parent or family member to help during the creation process. Not only will this allow them to add specific songs they want to the playlist, but it is also a great opportunity to spend quality time together and reminisce about the memories that some of their favorite songs provoke.

Engaging with the Playlist

Creating the right environment for listening is as important as the playlist itself. Ensure your parent or family member is relaxed and comfortable before you begin. Use the music as an opportunity to encourage reminiscence and conversation. Discuss the songs, artists, or memories associated with the music. This can promote connection and engagement, adding a valuable social component to the listening experience.

Furthermore, if you include soothing music to your playlist, you can play these songs as a way to help your parent or family member wind down in the evening, making it a part of their nighttime routine.

Additional Tips

Choose between headphones or speakers based on your loved one’s comfort and preference. Some may enjoy the immersive experience headphones provide, while others might prefer the ambient effect of speakers.

Additionally, consider incorporating multi-sensory experiences. Combining music with relevant photographs, mementos, or activities (like dancing or playing an instrument) can enhance the therapeutic effect and make the experience more engaging and enjoyable.


Music has a unique power to reach into the depths of the soul, and its impact on individuals with dementia is no less profound. A personalized playlist can bring joy, stimulate memories, and provide a soothing influence in their often-confusing world. So, armed with these tips, we encourage you to explore the relationship between music and dementia and see the positive effects it can have on your loved one’s life. Remember, your efforts in creating a personalized playlist do not merely curate a collection of songs but weave together the soundtrack of a life filled with memories, emotions, and connections.

We invite you to visit our website or contact a member of our compassionate team to learn more about The Pavilion Senior Living and our memory care services in Tennessee.

Tags: , , ,