Assessing the impact of music, reminiscing, and other non-pharmacological interventions for dementia.

The team at Generation Connect has partnered with researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison to research dementia care engagement. Initial research studies show that music, reminiscing, and other tablet-based activities improve mood outcomes.

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Husband uses tablet with wife with dementia

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Videos, music on tablets boost moods of dementia patients and caregivers

A press release from the University of Wisconsin announces the publication of a dementia reserach paper. This study was one of the first to explore how tablets could benefit people with dementia and their caregivers.

Connie, a personal caregiver from York, PA, was one of approximately 70 professionals that received equipment and training to use tablets for a dementia research project.

A forward by Gerontologist Debby Dodds, MS  

I only briefly met Connie in person, but I feel like I know her well. Over the past 18 months, we’ve connected on the phone, through FaceTime video calls, and via online messaging. Connie is a personal caregiver - primarily for people that are living with dementia, and she has been participating in a new program involving training care teams to use iPads for person-centered engagement activities.  

“To be honest, when I first heard about the project, I was not exactly excited. I used a computer for a few years, but the tablet was new and that was one more thing to worry about,” Connie explained to me in a recent conversation.  

Before Connie received the tablet, it was configured to ensure privacy and personalized for her clients with music, images from family, and entertainment apps like YouTube. Once she started using the tablet and having success, her hesitations faded.  

“Now I use it all the time. I play music and videos every day. After a while, you notice what your client really likes, and when they like listening or watching. It really helps people feel happy and connected. It also makes it much easier to spark conversations."  

The following report provides an analysis of feedback from care professionals like Connie. Participants were part of care organizations from across the country that participated in dementia care projects involving personalized technology for caregivers. The University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy analyzed the data from over 1,000 of the tablet engagement sessions and concluded that engaging people with music, images, videos, and apps can help caregivers enhance recipient mood.

Icon for dementia care organizations

30 Care Organizations

Participating organizations included nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospitals and home care agencies. 

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60 Tablets

Managed tablets were customized for music, reminiscing, and cognitive engagement activities.  

outcomes for dementia care research icon

+1,000 Surveys

Care staff noted engagement activities and mood outcomes using a feedback survey on the tablet.  


What is the purpose of the report?

This report was developed to study the use of tablet computers to facilitate non-pharmacological interventions for dementia.

Who are the authors of the report?

Dr. Jay Ford, Dr. Aaron Gilson, and Arveen Kaur from the University of Wisconsin Madison School of Pharmacy. For inquires about research, contact Dr. Ford at jhfordii@wisc.edu, and Dr. Gilson at aaron.gilson@wisc.edu.

How did they study the impact of tablet use?

A wide variety of care organizations, including nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home care companies, received equipment and training for using tablets to personalize care. Participants were asked to provide feedback via a built-in app that captured their activity and mood outcomes for the care recipient.

What was the primary finding?

Researchers concluded that there are "unequivocal therapeutic benefits of iPad use for music and other approaches." The most prevalent mood outcomes included - maintaining a positive mood, enhancing a positive mood, or achieving a positive mood after beginning the sessions in a negative mood. These outcomes accounted for over 90% of sessions.  

“There is an unequivocal benefit in using iPads as an alternative to pharmaceutical interventions for mood enhancement in people living with dementia."

- Dr. Jay Ford, PhD. -

Non-Pharmacological Interventions in Dementia

Care professionals and dementia advocates from a wide variety of organizations contributed to the findings in this report, including non-profits, trade organizations, small businesses, and private foundations. The following projects were included in the tablet engagement report.

CTA Foundation Grant Enables Technology for Caregivers

2017 Consumer Technology Association Grant A Consumer Technology Association grant was designed to learn how tablet technology can be leveraged to enhance quality of life for elderly and infirm in long-term care. The project included equipment and training for 10 care homes in the US.

Verizon logo

2017 Verizon Wireless Grant A similar grant from Verizon's private foundation funded training and support for care staff to integrate iPads into the daily workings of skilled nursing facilities, assisted living communities, hospitals, hospices, and adult day sites. The grant included 8 care homes in the US and focused exclusively on residents living with dementia. 

Music and Memory logo

2017 Music & Memory® Tablet Pilot Music & Memory is a non-profit that brings personalized music into the lives of the elderly or infirm. In the Fall of 2017, ten Music & Memory certified care organizations participated in pilot project that included equipment, online training, live webinars, and support to help staff personalize resident engagement with tablets.  

visiting angels logo

2018 Visiting Angels Home Care Pilots Visiting Angels is a national, private duty home care agency. A franchise owner in York, PA invested in a tablet engagement pilot, which involved training care staff and personalizing tablet content for clients with dementia or a related diagnosis living at home.

“Our caregivers showed such creativity and compassion in using the tablets to make special connections."

- Susan Heinle RN. 

Owner of Visiting Angels in York, PA

Key findings show tablets can be used to enhance mood.

This study is one of the first to focus on a large-scale implementation of iPads across institutional and in-home settings. Participating care organizations provided a common set of data for engagement sessions, including:  

  • Patients’ primary physical challenge – memory loss, non-ambulatory, movement disorder, communicative/expressive disorders, or other
  • Method used for caregiver/patient engagement – music, stories-video, games, communication, photos, other  
  • Type of strategy of caregiver/patient engagement – music, reminiscing, socialization, relaxation, achievement 
  • Patients' mood before / after engagement - joyful, happy, relaxed, indifferent, confused, sad, anxious, angry  


This study shows that iPad interventions enhanced mood for most patients. The data suggests the personalized tablet engagement can help care recipients both maintain positive moods and improve negative moods.  

There were 628 sessions, in which the caregiver noted that the care recipient demonstrated a negative mood (angry, anxious, sad, confused, or indifferent) prior to the session. After partaking in personalized tablet activities, over 85% of sessions resulted in the care recipient shifting to a positive mood state (joyful, happy, or relaxed). 

Mood Transitions for Individuals

Mood Before Session: Indiffernt (n=408)

For the many people that began in a state of indifference, engaging in tablet activities evoked a positive mood state over 90% of the time.

non pharmacological interventions for indifference dementia

Mood Before Session: Confused (n=75)

For those that began Confused, a majority (86%) ended the session in a positive mood.

non pharmacological interventions for confusion dementia

Mood Before Session: Sad (n=65)

Nearly 95% of people that began the session as Sad improved their mood to be joyful, happy, or relaxed.

non pharmacological interventions for sadness dementia

Mood Before Session: Anxious (n=52)

Tablet engagement relived anxiety and resulted in a positive mood outcomes in over 80% of sessions, in which the care recipient began as Anxious.

non pharmacological interventions for anxiety dementia

Mood Before Session: Angry (n=33)

For those that began as Angry, all but two people demonstrated a positive mood after tablet engagement.

non pharmacological interventions for anger dementia

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