“Music Gives Me Words”: Cultural Engagement for Persons with Dementia via Zoom during the Corona Pandemic

Conference: The Barcelona Conference on Arts, Media & Culture (BAMC2021)
Title: “Music Gives Me Words”: Cultural Engagement for Persons with Dementia via Zoom during the Corona Pandemic
Stream: Ageing Studies
Presentation Type: Live-Stream Presentation
Nancy Brown, University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Chariklia Tziraki-Segal, Hebrew University, Israel


The Covid-19 pandemic has created social isolation, stress, and anxiety across all ages including people with dementia. Interactive technologies like Zoom have been employed to mediate the social isolation of the pandemic. We find no literature, however, reporting the use of this technology for persons with advanced dementia. This study utilised the Zoom platform to maintain social connectivity with clients representing an immigrant community identified with moderate to advanced cognitive impairment. Music offered a vehicle for providing culturally sensitive, group-relevant, psychosocial intervention where clients expressed positive emotional feelings and remained engaged with their social world despite what was going on around them.

Online, group sessions were conducted for 5 weeks, 2 hours each week during the COVID-19 lockdown. Carers were instructed on tablet usage and preparations needed for the Zoom session. Video recordings followed the ethics guidelines of the day center MELABEV and were manually transcribed. NVivo software was used in the qualitative analysis.

Four themes emerged analysis: Self-identity, Shared Cultural Identity, Social Connectedness, and Embodied Selfhood. Clients demonstrated significant verbal and non-verbal social interaction without inhibition in their participation. Despite cognitive limitations, they actively engaged, connected, and interacted with the music therapist and one another.

Making available technology to persons with dementia, seeing them socially connect through the medium of culturally familiar music, and engaging through a medium not part of their generation have far-reaching implications not only for future research but also for policy considerations.

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