There are approximately 90,000 people living with dementia in Scotland.

The experience of the illness is subjective and unique to each individual. Effectively tackling the symptoms of dementia requires a coordinated range of health and social care interventions.

International Longevity Centre - Dementia and Music

Friday 25 August 2017

Consultation details

Alzheimer Scotland responded to call evidence by the International Longevity Centre-UK as part of their Commission to examine Music and Dementia.

Summary of Response

Alzheimer Scotland's response was broken down into different sections, looking at different challenges and opportunities for the use of music for people with dementia.


Alzheimer Scotland the need to distinguish between social supports and using of music in service settings as part of a range of therapeutic interventions, and music therapy as a highly specialised psychological clinical intervention, delivered by Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC) registered Music Therapists. 

Delivery and Benefits of Music

Alzheimer Scotland noted that we understand that most initiatives around music and dementia are delivered by the third sector and funded through fundraised income or grant applications to charitable funds.

We additionally highlighted that our own resource centres and services provide specialist therapeutic interventions which support people with dementia to maintain their skills and take part in meaningful activities such musical reminiscence, singing and other music-based interventions; these provide stimulation and social interaction which improve the person’s wellbeing and reduce isolation. 

Emerging Opportunities

Alzheimer Scotland noted its development and delivery of new ways of working which recognise the importance of therapeutic interventions (including music-based interventions) as a crucial including:

We also noted that in Scotland, Self-Directed Support (SDS) legislation was passed in 2013 which aimed to improve the lives of people who use social care services to allow greater choice and control over supports and services accessed. This includes the option of Direct Payments which, under the provisions of the legislation, allow people to choose how they are supported and on what the money is spent. However, the uptake and implementation of this policy remains low.

Barriers to Uptake

Alzheimer Scotland noted that a key barriers to the uptake and delivery of formal Music Therapy interventions is a shortage of empirical evidence to demonstrate the long-term benefits of music in improving the wellbeing and quality of life of people with dementia. As a result, commissioners and decision-makers are less likely to commission such interventions without evidence of the improved outcomes for individuals. 

Aligning Interventions with Other Work

Alzheimer Scotland highlighted support to develop and publish resources which demonstrate the work of AHPs, including Music Therapists, in supporting and improving the lives of people with dementia, their families and carers in different settings and environments:

We further noted the importance of any work in Scotland being considered in the context of the Scottish Government’s third National Dementia Strategy (2017-2020). Whilst is does not explicitly mention musical interventions, there are multiple references to the importance of therapeutic interventions for people with dementia, their families and carers

Influence and Delivery

Alzheimer Scotland highlighted that no specific organisation should have sole responsibility for delivering musical interventions, with a collaborative effort required between organisations to ensure that robust, evidence-based policy and practice are embedded to utilise music-based interventions and Music Therapy to improve the wellbeing of people with dementia, their families and carers.


Alzheimer Scotland’s experience is that social supports and therapeutic interventions are not valued in the same way as more traditional, medical-led clinical interventions. We highlighted the need for social supports and therapeutic interventions, including those involving music, singing and sound, to be recognised as absolutely essential to ensure the wellbeing of people with dementia, their families and carers. 

Download the Dementia Music response

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