Chloe Meineck on the power of music to improve the lives of people living with dementia

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Music Memory Box, Photography by Studio Meineck

Music Memory Box® is a multi sensory reminiscence product that combines a physical box with RFID technology. Objects are paired with music inside a box, designed to prompt related memories for people living with dementia. It is the brainchild of Chloe Meineck, who experienced first hand the positive effects of music on people with dementia when she would visit her Great gran as a child.

“Although she couldn’t remember who any of her family was anymore, she could still play piano very well — and we would put on a song and she would know all the lyrics and then talk for a long time after about the memories, stories and people she was reminded of. She came alive again with the use of music.”

Chloe designed the first Music Box in 2011 whilst still at university. She made the first prototype, teaching herself electronics at a local hackspace. It was co-designed with people living with dementia and since then families, care staff, music therapists and neuroscientists have all been a part of the iteration and development process.

How big a problem is dementia?

Dementia is the world’s largest health epidemic, with 47.6 million people globally living with dementia; and this figure is predicted to double every twenty years. In the UK 850,000 people live with dementia, with 225,000 new diagnoses every year. Life expectancy depends on when the person is diagnosed, on average an Alzheimer’s Disease diagnosis means 8–10 years.

People living with dementia have complex care needs and can face problems of depression, anxiety, confusion and communication difficulties. Family members can experience frustration, communication gaps and the awful reality of losing their loved one really slowly.

Photography by Studio Meineck

What is Music Memory Box and what are the benefits?

It is multi sensory reminiscence product that has been clinically proven to reduce confusion and anxiety, improve communication and improve a sense of identity that contributes to increasing wellbeing and quality of life for those with dementia. Family members have reported reduced frustration, closer connection to family members and greater quality of life. Care staff have reported their job is easier and more enjoyable to do, as they have better communication with residents.

Photography by Studio Meineck

Is it straightforward to use and customise?

Absolutely! The simple interface of an object put in the centre of the box, to play the individual piece of music, is ideal for people even at the later stages of dementia; they can use the product on their own un-facilitated. The product comes as a kit so people can customise it themselves adding their own important objects, photographs and music. The family or care staff put a simple RFID sticker on the bottom of each object they wish to be musical. Audio instructions and a tangible interface allow easy upload and implementation in different care scenarios.

Photography by Studio Meineck

What next for you?

We have just completed a successful kickstarter campaign which was overfunded by 234 backers who raised 108% of our target, raising over £27 000. We had backers from across the world including the UK, Germany, the US, the Netherlands and Australia, meaning we can put Music Memory Box into production.

We specialise in mental health and wellbeing and have a range of products we want to launch over the years — for children in care, adopted children and children refugees. Through our products we want to address some of society’s most complex issues; dementia, mental health in children, and depression in adults.

We have just been awarded a fellowship to research and explore the future of automation, mental health, wellbeing and emotion mapping, which is very exciting!

What are you most proud of?

I am most proud of the positive impact Music Memory box has had on so many families already. Here you can listen to a piece on BBC Click, featuring some of the families that have used it already and the effect it has had. The Music Memory Box has made what can be a distressing time in families lives, into one of joy and making new memories to treasure together.

I’m also proud of my resilience over the years and how far the Music Memory Box has come — from being unemployed with an idea, to now building a team, producing our first electronic product, and with more products in development.

Photography by Studio Meineck

Learn more about Music Memory Box or pre-order one now at musicmemorybox.com