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Remind - Music for Memory [Updated 12/26]

We aim to improve the situation in which the patient is isolated and alone to become “alive inside” and reminded of their relationships.

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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?

Remind is designed for Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. Patients are connected with their families through a personalized music device and mobile application. The device is used by the patient and managed by their family members or caregivers through the app. When the patient does not remember a face, a sound is used in place to “remind” the user and trigger memories.


Nearly 44 million people worldwide are living with Alzheimer’s with no known cure for the disease (Alzheimer’s Disease International). At this time there are only prevention and coping methods.

Research done by the Alzheimer’s Association has proven that music improves memory and taps deep into memories not lost to dementia. Personalized music helps these people to feel themselves again by awakening memories, stimulating cognitive function, and facilitating positive interaction.

We want to further develop and design a human-centered digital music system for improving the quality of life and relationships of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. Our aim is to change the situation in which the patient is isolated and alone to become "alive inside" through reminding them of their memories and relationships.


“Most people associate music with important events and a wide array of emotions. The connection can be so strong that hearing a tune long after the occurrence evokes a memory of it.”

— Alzheimer's Foundation of America

This project was initially inspired by “Alive Inside”, a documentary directed by Michael Rossato-Bennett, that demonstrates the profound impact music has on Alzheimer’s patients. Then through further research and discussions with a cognitive neuroscientist we saw an opportunity to translate our findings into designing a human-centered music platform that could be used by patients and caregivers.

Currently non-profit organizations studying the benefits of music for Alzheimer’s, dementia and other cognitive and physical challenges recommend “simple to use” digital music players and radios that have been designed with a very minimal interface and function. For example, “Music & Memory” is an organization that collects and distributes used iPods, then trains nursing home staff and caregivers how to create and provide personalized playlists to their patients. We are very inspired by their efforts to make this form of personalized therapeutic music a standard of care throughout the healthcare industry, however we have another approach.

There is great potential for a music system designed specifically for our user group, since most existing digital music players provided to patients have not been designed for them. We  find the current products and services to be inadequate in both form and function. To overcome this we must thoroughly understand the needs and desires of both the patient and their loved ones.


During visits, if the individual with Alzheimer's does not recognize a family member nor remember their relationship to them, the idea is to try using a song or a familiar sound when a face is not enough. The song would be from a memory they shared, for instance a wedding song for a spouse, a favourite concert jam between friends, or a loved lullaby for grandchildren. They might have trouble recalling details and names but a song has the ability to bring back memories of when it was previously heard, as long as it played a significant role in the event. If this doesn’t work, then there is still their favourite music playing to foster a calm and focused visit. And if it does work? Then it could be worthwhile forming these music - memory associations at the earliest stage of dementia to enforce a strong connection between the sound triggers and visuals. 

The combination of the device and the app can enhance the contact between the patient and their loved ones and caregiver, as well as improve the mood of the patient and help them to remember and interact with others. For the family and other caregivers the app offers a psychological help, showing that they are not alone, and improves the quality of their interactions by providing a reminder of the person they loved and still love.

Deeply personal music is most effective as music therapy therefore it is crucial to create a database where the songs and memories are stored. It not only provides the database for the user, but it also enables loved ones to keep in contact with the patient and feel involved and receive information on the well being of the patient. It allows them to send voice messages to the user along with songs, and also helps the caregivers to recreate history with the user, interact with each other, and share memories.

Keeping in mind that the disease is progressive, we imagine that the mobile application may be used on it’s own as a music player in the early stages.  Then should conditions worsen, the physical device can intervene as a companion when simplicity, ergonomics, and usability play a more important role.

In 2014, over 15 million family members and friends in America provided over 17 billion hours of unpaid care to those suffering from Alzheimer’s  (Alzheimer’s Association) and the people we talked to were eager to try using music for memory. The nursing homes also could benefit from this service, because it allows them to operate smoother with a very personalized music therapy involving the family and friends in a more effective way. It is important for them to get as much help as possible, therefore Remind focuses on the patient as well as on the people around them and their interaction with each other.



The music player charging and glowing to invite Birgitta to play her music:


Since we first shared this project online, we have received numerous messages and emails from people telling us about their struggles with their grandparent/ parent/ friend and asking where and when they can get a Remind music player. They all seem eager to try it with their care-recipient but I regretfully continue to respond to them that it is just a prototype and student project. Sooner than later we want to tell them that it is ready. 

Now we are more experienced designers than when we kicked off this project as students. And now we know what needs to be done before talking production, thanks to input from the many people that have contributed their feedback.


Other inspiration mentioned:

Alive Inside

Music and Memory

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

We have evidence that proves the concept could work for some and we want to dedicate more time to using music to try to awaken memories with individuals across various stages of Alzheimer's, and together with caregivers and at nursing homes. We also feel the design of both the app and tangible music player needs to be refined for both the caregiver and person living with Alzheimer's respectively, therefore we would continue crafting and testing mockups and prototypes until it's good enough.

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

We'd appreciate any help that gets us closer to not only bringing this project to life, but improves the system and experience we are proposing. We'd also love to hear about the community's experience providing care with the help of music. Also we're eager to find technologies that can enable the seamless interaction between the people and the music at just the right moment.

How long has your idea existed?

  • Over 1 year

This idea emerged from

  • A student collaboration

Tell us about your work experience:

Two of us are Interaction Designers at different tech companies and two are Industrial Designers working at design consultancies. We all graduated together from Umeå Institute of Design a few years ago. We have diverse professional backgrounds between us, including work in healthcare and wellness.

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

It is a digital music player and application designed for people with Alzheimer's. Along with the well-known benefits of music, their songs help them remember who they are, but there wasn't a music player on the market that has been designed for their specific needs. So we designed one, along with a platform for caregivers so that they can manage the music library and music therapy.

How does your idea demonstrate our Criteria of Accessibility?

Throughout our design process we have prioritized solving usability issues that people face, such as loss of dexterity, poor vision, etc. Concerning accessibility in terms of cost, organizations such as Music and Memory are dedicated to the efforts of sourcing and distributing mp3 players, as well as recruiting volunteers. We aim to keep our price below the ones they currently use, to make our Remind system an opportunity for everyone.

How does your idea demonstrate or plan to demonstrate scalability?

Remind is a system that includes both a device and software, but we plan to design a version of the ios and android app that can be used without our music player, but instead using existing personal devices, speakers, and headphones. The concept can not include some of the features but will be scalable as long as there is music. We will educate people on how to use it through the website.

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

By observing people use it, as well as feedback, stories from caregivers and nursing home workers on their experiences using the music system with their care-recipient. Since this an emotional topic, we want to provide a space for users to share the success and challenges they have in an open forum, to help them help each other strengthen their relationships while spreading awareness of Remind.

What are your immediate next steps after the Challenge?

During this phase we have gathered more feedback and refined the physical design of the music player. Next steps are to improve the UX/UI of the companion application and web platform, so that we can get it all back in the hands of our users for further testing.
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Refined music player on charger, glowing to invite Birgitta to play her music. (Updated 26/12)


Join the conversation:

Photo of Kelsey Anderson

This is amazing. I used music to connect with my grandfather when he was in the final stages of life. My grandmother had dementia and passed away a few years before and I wish I had thought of this to do with her. The only missing element was that my grandfather had to have someone with technical capabilities to be there to play the music. A device like this is game changing. Many contributors have great probing questions that will drive innovation, but personally just wanted to commend you for your thoughtfulness. Life is so much sweeter with music, the memories, feelings of joy and stages of our lives can often times be attributed to music and specific genres. Keep iterating, innovating and above all else, keep in mind the benefits of simplicity!

One element you touched on, which is a great step, is how to monetize and create recurring revenue. Having an iOS and Android app that works without the device is a great way to utilize the subscription model and automates the process for many people who would support this as a long term benefit for a family member. Consider how to make this app robust enough that a user or intermediate user would want to continue paying for it on behalf of a loved one. Can you provide badges, metrics, insight, notifications that go out to the user to show them how often their loved one uses it, what songs they like the most or consecutive hours of playtime?

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