Music, Connection, Community, and Dementia

Portrait of Emily Markovich looking at the camera wearing a bright red zip up

A guest post by ARTZ Intern Emily Markovich

Dementia Dialogue is a podcast that offers a platform for people who have lived experience with dementia to share their personal stories. The podcast came out with an eight-episode series on art & dementia, in which they interview people whose everyday lives are affected by the arts and dementia. 

One episode that caught my attention in particular is called “Connecting Through Music.” In this episode, host Lisa Loiselle interviews Simon Law, an award-winning singer, songwriter, and producer. When his father was diagnosed with dementia, Simon began to discover the effect that music had on him. Simon noticed that music seemed to open a door to part of his father’s mind that dementia had closed off. Music became a way for Simon and his family to feel connected to his father, even after he could no longer speak. Simon’s experience with his father inspired him to begin working with the Dotsa Bitove Wellness Academy, where he worked as a music instructor. At Bitove, Simon and his music program were just one of the engagement activities available for people living with dementia to gather and form relationships through the arts. 

The programs at the Bitove Academy are based on their philosophy of care, which is bringing people together to form connections and a sense of community where they can be free to express themselves through the arts in a judgment-free, supportive environment. Bitove strives to move away from the idea that art is a form of treatment for people living with dementia, and instead is a way to improve one’s well-being. In his time as a music instructor at Bitove, Simon led engagement activities, and even wrote and recorded songs featuring some of the people with dementia.

Law says, “through the arts – and particularly music… we can really build relationships, and build community, and that is a key thing for folks living with dementia… for all human beings, really.” He also believes that being surrounded by friendly, open-hearted people leads people who are living with dementia to fall into a sense of well-being, community, and love. In my time at ARTZ Philadelphia, I have seen this kind of open-heartedness and love throughout the ARTZ community and the staff who make all of the programming possible. ARTZ offers music-based programs and events like Music in the Neighborhood and ARTZ Notes, where people living with dementia and their care partners come together and share this special connection through music.

Go to Dementia Dialogue: Arts & Dementia Series, Episode 4: “Connecting Through Music” to listen to the full podcast episode and learn more about Simon Law and his involvement with music and dementia.