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Pathways: helping people with dementia find their voice through song

by Bev Foster

Singing is particularly effective in dementia care because it is a healthy and meaningful activity.


  • Supports and stimulates memory
  • Encourages deep breathing, increasing blood oxygenation
  • Induces muscle tension release which provides relaxation
  • Offers a point of human contact
  • Can provide emotional connections for people living with dementia to prior experiences where they were held, rocked, patted and sung to when they were in need of comfort
  • Retains its value through all stages of the dementia trajectory
  • Is an opportunity to actively engage in a form of communication where language has been affected
  • May provide neurological pathways for memory retrieval as research suggests music pathways may still be intact in dementia

Room 217’s Pathways Singing Program provides a much needed music resource for caregivers and community leaders working with people with dementia. It will also provide an enjoyable psychosocial activity for people with dementia that has the power to unlock both their memories and their voice in a variety of settings – home, long term care, support groups, and day programs etc.

Key Elements of the Pathways program
1)    Video Series – Thirteen 25-minute theme-based episodes that are simple, consistent and calming in their approach, featuring the same facilitating singer in each episode for familiarity, regularity, repetition and focus organized into 3 DVDs:

United Kingdom
North America
French Canada (in French)
Hymns & Spirituals
Love Songs
For the Beauty of the World

2)    Activities – Five accompanying activities per song per episode to extend the usefulness of the musical experience, integrating other modalities and enhancing the program.

3)    Training Modules – An online resource to train and support program facilitation by caregivers in whatever setting Pathways is used.

Room 217 depends on donors to help us deliver music care programs such as Pathways. Consider giving to the Pathways program in honour of a friend or loved one who is living with Alzheimer’s Disease or another related dementia.  Learn more about how to become involved here.

The Pathways Singing Program is currently in production and will be released in Fall 2015.