The Effect of a Personalized Playlist on Older Adults with Dementia


  • Elizabeth Wagner Wichita State University
  • HeeSoon Lee Wichita State University
  • Derek Mason Wichita State University


Dementia is a disease that corrodes one’s cognitive abilities such as their memory, affecting around 5
million people in the United States. While there is currently no treatment available to cure dementia,
music therapy was found effective to help reduce its symptoms. Based on the Music and Memory
program, this study is aimed to examine the impact of listening to a personalized music playlist on
observable behavior, memory, and mood of older adults with dementia. The Music and Memory program
was applied to 6 older adults with dementia at a Retirement Center in Northwest Ohio. The findings
indicated that listening to a personalized playlist had a positive outcome on improving moods and
decreasing disruptive behavior of participants, with more increased eye contact, smiling, face relaxation,
and responsiveness. This study suggests that personalized music is an effective intervention tool;
therefore, social workers should take on the roles of educators, evaluators, brokers, and advocators in
applying Music and Memory program to clients with dementia.

Author Biographies

Elizabeth Wagner, Wichita State University

Elizabeth Wagner is expected to receive her BSW degree from Bowling Green State University in May
2015. She plans on going to Master School in fall 2016 and is interested in the mental health
Elizabeth’s research focuses on older adults and dementia.

HeeSoon Lee, Wichita State University

Dr. Lee received her Ph.D. in social work from the University of South Carolina and joined Bowling
Green State University in 2011. Her research interests include coping strategies, resilience, QOL,
health and sexual communication issue among cross-cultural older adults, and veteran’s
reintegration. She teaches courses in social work practice with older adults, HBSE II, social
welfare institutions, and diversity and
injustice for undergraduate students. She serves as the faculty advisor for undergraduate students.

Derek Mason, Wichita State University

Dr. Mason, Ph.D., is an associate professor at Bowling Green State University and served as a social work
program coordinator. He teaches courses in mental health and interview and observation for
undergraduate students.