How do you describe Memory Disco?
A Memory Disco, from the Dementia Project, a nonprofit founded by Kaylie Glenn and Anish Ganesh, is a multi-sensory experience designed to meet the unique needs of people living with dementia. A silent disco is an experience where an unlimited amount of headphones are connected to 1 transmitter, allowing each participant to listen and engage in the same musical experience simultaneously. Using silent disco headphones directs attention towards the music and accounts for individual hearing needs, while retaining the community aspect of the experience. When combined with The Dementia Project’s Musical Engagement Program, the silent disco becomes a Memory Disco. The Musical Engagement Program combines strategies for improving mood, cognition, and behavior in order to promote active listening and break down communication barriers to improve connection.
The Memory Disco has been in a pilot program at a facility in Ohio for 2 years with much success. We hope to expand access to this program with the help of the Dementia Spring Arts Impact Award.
How has the Dementia Spring Arts Impact Award furthered your work?
The Dementia Spring Arts Impact Award has funded the maintenance and creation of the Memory Disco Portal, designed to be an online global resource for dementia and music support. The portal includes on-demand, professionally made educational videos, specially made playlists, and step-by-step activity guides for care partners.
Over the past several months, we’ve worked on creating and organizing all the content to have the portal ready for use. Our goal is to share these resources with as many care partners as we can to fundraise to support Memory Disco packages for various low-income dementia communities.
What or who initially inspired you to grapple with dementia?
In our early teens, we saw the power that music has in dementia when playing our guitar and violin to loved ones. We witnessed remarkable transformations where loved ones light up—dancing, singing along, and connecting with the people they love. They’re still there! With the right tools and experience, we can foster these moments of joy, remembrance, and connection. We wanted to fight to make these moments accessible for everyone. For 8 years, we’ve worked to create a tool that makes these extraordinary moments ordinary in dementia care. Our Memory Disco brings the power of music anywhere, by anyone, at any time—regardless of musical experience. The Dementia Project strives to create new memories in a disease that is often characterized solely by what is forgotten.
What advice do you have for other artists who are telling stories of dementia through their work?
Art is so incredibly powerful. It touches our brains in unique and incredible ways. In a disease that can be so incredibly devastating for everyone involved, the use of art can be one of the most valuable ways to make a difference.
Find out more about The Dementia Project on Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and its website. You can also support The Dementia Project here.
Learn more about the 2022 Dementia Arts Impact Award winners and the 2023 application on Dementia Spring’s website.