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Music Memory Box

A physical and digital tool for people living with dementia to reminisce, recollect and reconnect with family and carers.

Photo of Chloe Meineck
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Who is your idea designed for and how does it better support family caregivers as they care for a loved one with dementia?

It has been designed with and for people living with dementia+ their family. They may be struggling to connect like they used to. Music Memory Box is a tool that can be completed together, going through treasured memories + music, it can be a conversation starter, family can hear stories they have never heard before. Laughter, love and singing can bring them closer. Once set up it can be used independently, increasing sense of independence or can be used in a group setting with family +or carers

What is the Music Memory Box?

Music Memory Box is a tool for people living with dementia and their families and/or carers. 

The product comes as a physical kit - so people can create the most personalised reminiscence box. The product uses music, photos and objects to help trigger treasured memories. The individual piece of music is triggered through a particular object (using RFID technology) being put in the centre of the box, this physical and tangible interface has been tested and iterated meaning that people at the later stages of dementia, can still use the interface on their own. 

The Music Memory Box is not simply an off the shelf product - you need to personalise it. By personalising the box you can create a better reminiscence for the person living with dementia. The more multi sensory and personalised the reminiscence - the more effective it is. 

Most current products do not address this, they are generic and assume that all people that were born in the 1950s have the same few songs and memories as each other. We all know this doesn't make sense - especially as many people may have moved countries in their lives, so one song for one person can mean absolutely nothing to another. Many care homes in the UK are still playing Vera Lynn and not addressing their residents music tastes, identities, memories and lives. 

The Music Memory Box has not been launched yet - but we have made 50 units at once - in a batch and are currently piloting them.

How it is set up and used:

The person living with dementia, depending on their abilities can get involved in every stage of the set up of the box, but we've found family members, or care staff mostly lead the process. 

Firstly in the lid of the box, you can create a photo collage of different times in someones life. From childhood up until the current day. Start to collect different pieces of music that you know are important to the person living with dementia, this could be a song that played as their first dance at their wedding, it could be a piece of music that reminds them of their job. 

Next find an object, or token that links with that story, person or event. This could be a pebble from a beach that reminds them of when they used to live in Brighton. The linking process is simple, put your music on a USB stick - plug the USB stick into the Music Memory Box and it will prompt you with audible instructions on how to link it to the objects. It works by using RFID stickers. Once set up - the box can be used on its own by the person with dementia in their room, or when the family come to visit, or at a group activity session in a care home. Each object when put in the centre will trigger a different piece of music, and will prompt the person living with dementia to reminisce, reawaken and reconnect. 


The product was inspired by the inventor's (Chloe Meineck's) Great Gran's love of music and how much it helped her through the stages of dementia. 

Current Pilot:

We have three care homes on our pilot, independant families found through a local dementia charity and we also have a community group, called Bristol Black Carers. They are all using the Music Memory Box for two months, we are conducting pre, mid and post interviews and feedback sessions with the main contact for each of the 30 boxes. Our pilot was created with a professor for mental health and dementia from the University of West of England. Through our pilot we've found that there is a network of people that benefit from the product. We have measures for the person living with dementia, the family member and the care staff, all these measures add up to a higher quality of life for each person in the network.

We have found from our current Music Memory Box pilot that family carers have learnt new things about their loved one that they never knew, they feel communication has improved and have felt more involved in their loved ones life. We have partners of the person living with dementia on our pilot, which can often be the most tricky relationship, as your closest loved one may not remember you at times. We've found couples able to relax together for the first time in years (see Steve in the video below) and prompting stories about the couple meeting for the first time through particular pieces of music and trinkets put in the box, which is so valuable to watch. 

Care staff on our pilot have also found benefit in understanding the residents previous and current life better, found it easier to care for the resident at stressful times such as bathing and generally really enjoyed the process of listening, singing and dancing that has been prompted by the Music Memory Box. One member of care staff now puts on a particular piece of music, when bathing the resident, so that the person living with dementia is put at ease - they now sing the song together - so that it is familiar and reduces distress. Another example, is one particular resident finds going to bed in the evening difficult and is often very agitated in the early evening not being able to tolerate anyone else, this is called 'sundowning'. He now goes to his room and listens to his favourite music in his box, which staff have commented on that it reduces his stress and agitation before bed.  

We have also understood the benefits to care home managers being that the Music Memory Box can contribute to a better CQC rating. We have already been approached by the CQC in giving evidence for a care home on our pilot. 


Global Lead for Dementia for Bupa, 

"There is a friendliness and personal engagement about the Music Memory Box that purely digital innovations often lack. The USP is the connection with the personal memorabilia. Multi-sensory reminiscence is a way of tapping into the world of the person."

A senior activity organiser said when asked if they would recommend Music Memory Box to other care homes said: 

“There’s huge relationship building, it’s great for communication, and to see how people are lit up or moved, to a really deep sense...people have really been taken to another place + another level of experience. So I would say they are absolutely brilliant + a really good experience.”

Daughter of someone living with dementia on our pilot:

"MMB has become a great thing to enjoy together and with other family members. We now listen to it on most visits. It nearly always brightens Dad's mood. His speech also often gets more fluent as he recalls memories and stories. It also helps ease the transition when I leave - it gives him something to focus on. The box has provided a focal point for visits and conversations. We've listened and used it much more than we would use his CD player, because it's fun and visual - and even encourages movement. Because of Dad's vascular dementia, he sometimes (often) has difficulty remembering exactly where he is (though he knows when prompted). Moving out of the house he had lived in for 47 years was a huge change, just at a time when his cognitive difficulties mean he needs all the familiarity he can get to retain his sense of who he is and where he is. Being with family and close friends does that for him but the music box also helps. It gives him access to memories and particular pleasures that really support his mood, wellbeing and sense of self. The MMB has also shown me that while he increasingly struggles for words, his understanding is still very much intact!"


Results from the care homes that have finished their pilot:

Impact for person living with dementia:

  • Reduced anxiety: 67%
  • Improved sense of identity: 83%
  • Improved well being: 83%
  • Improved communication: 100%
  • Increased enjoyment: 100%
  • Improved quality of life for those living with dementia: 83%
  • 83% of the participants reached their personal goals they wanted to achieve.

Impact for family:

  • Greater connection to loved one: 75%
  • Improved quality of conversations: 100% 
  • Reduced frustration: 60%
  • Improved quality of life: 67%

Average rating of prototype: 7.8/10 

(Most of the improvements around speed of start up time will be taken out as we move to the final product.)

100% of residents, family and care staff would recommend the product. 

Next Stages:

If we can secure funding for our product, get feedback from Open IDEO members and partners on this challenge -  we believe with a few adjustments for design for manufacture, that we have learnt through our current pilot, we will ready to launch our product next year so we can start to address care givers and people living with dementia's needs. 

What early, lightweight experiment might you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

We're currently running a 30 box pilot in and around Bristol, getting families and care homes to use our prototypes and give us feedback on the look, the function, how it's used, the benefits, how we can make it better for when we do the next stage - which is design for manufacture. We've done some work on this for our current boxes however the next larger batch of units will need to be CE certified, and the electronics developed into a single unit, we will need assemblers + suppliers etc.

What skills, input, or guidance from the OpenIDEO community would be most helpful in building out or refining your idea?

It would be great to get a world wide perspective on the product so far- to see if the idea is transferrable to other peoples cultures and backgrounds. It would also be great for the members to share our idea, and give feedback about our films, we have done everything ourselves, with little funding but now it needs to look more professional. We are planning to crowdfund the idea next year - so any feedback now will help us with our films and how we communicate our idea. Do our videos make sense?

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • An Individual

Tell us about your work experience:

I created the first Music Memory Box back in 2011 for a family member with dementia, it started as a university project back then. Now I run a small social design studio that specialises in co-design + interactive technologies - we still need support, funding and partners to help launch the product.

How would you describe this idea while in an elevator with someone?

The Music Memory Box is a physical and digital tool for people living with dementia to reminisce, recollect and reconnect with family and carers. Through use it can reduce anxiety, increase communication, independence and wellbeing & sense of identity that culminates in a higher quality of life for those living with dementia. The product has much market interest, but we need investment to launch.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Accessibility?

So far we have found that care homes are willing to purchase the Music Memory Box for their residents, so an individual doesn't bear the cost of the product. One care home wishes to joint purchase the product (when its ready) with family, 50/50 - this is an interesting model. It is worth pointing out that as the batch sizes we make increase that we can produce a more affordable product. We also want to build a online community where people are sharing their stories, tips + ideas around the MMB.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

The product is designed to be personalised, therefore is easily transferrable to other people and cultures. We have already been working in other countries to see if the product has ability to scale, we worked in Japan, Kobe for a month iterating the product with families and care homes there. Also a key place to scale in is the US where 5.5 million people live with dementia, more than 6 times the amount than in the UK. Our aim is 4 anyone across the world to be able to buy and use our product.

How do you plan to measure the impact of your idea?

In our 2 months pilot we've been evaluating the impact before, mid and post pilot, but it would be great to carry this on for the final product. Care homes and families could fill out short questions about the product, so we can evaluate how they are doing and make changes if we need to in how we are delivering or implementing the product. We want to know as much as possible about how people are using the product and how it's helping.

What are your immediate next steps after the Challenge?

Our immediate next steps are three fold: Firstly to secure funding and investment to grow the team, so we can get to the next steps which are: carry on getting care home groups and families excited + ready to pre purchase the product via our kickstarter campaign we want to launch. Thirdly find more affordable manufacturers for the product, current quotes from the UK are too high, if we can improve our quotes we can drop the price of the product.


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