Memory Care Group Activity

Memory Care Group Activity

Memory Care Activity Write-Up


Memory Recall, Socialization, and Sensory Experience


Population: Dementia/ Memory Care group


Domains:  Cognitive – memory recall; Social; Sensory


Rationale:  In addition to having difficulty with memory loss and the degenerative nature of many types of dementia, often times, clients have difficulty with verbalizing, which commonly leads to minimal socialization.  In this activity, clients are engaged in singing a familiar song that many of them know from their past.  This offers cognitive stimulation and facilitates memory recall and use of language through singing familiar lyrics.  The use of rain sticks and ocean drums made of varying materials offers a sensory experience as clients feel the materials of the instruments, listen to the varying sounds, and may have associations with the sounds of the instruments.  Finally, the experience of playing the instruments with the music therapist, facility staff, and passing instruments to their peers facilitates opportunities for socialization about the experience itself.


Materials:  Guitar, Recording of the song Autumn Leaves and a speaker to play the music, several rain sticks and ocean drums.  In this session, there were 3 rain sticks made of different materials (painted bamboo, carved gourd, cactus) and of differing sizes, and 1 ocean drum.



  • Begin by introducing the song, discussing the Autumn season, and talking about the various singers who clients may be familiar with that previously sang or recorded the song.
  • The first time through, you will want to play and sing the song so you can adapt the tempo for the needs of your clients.  Engage the clients in singing the song, encouraging clients to echo phrase by phrase to help clients familiarize themselves with the lyrics.
  • After you have finished the song with clients echoing the lyrics back, play and sing it again (to have flexibility in the tempo based on your clients’ needs), but this time, sing the song all the way through together without the echo.
  • At this point, your clients will be more familiar with the song, as many of them will recall the lyrics from listening to it in years past.  
  • Now introduce each of the rain sticks and ocean drums that you have.  Demonstrate how each one is played and ask clients what they think of when they hear the varying sounds, giving time to engage them in the initial sensory experience of listening to the sounds of rain and ocean waters.  Then begin handing out any rain sticks and ocean drums you may have and enlist assistance from facility staff members if you are in a memory care or assisted living facility.
  • This time, play the recording of the song Autumn Leaves.  This group used a recording by Nat King Cole, but there are many available recordings and voices your group may recognize.
  • Encourage clients to sing along, but also move around the group, engaging, and if needed, assisting clients in playing the instruments.  Encourage the other staff members to do the same.  As clients play the instruments, facilitate socialization about their thoughts regarding the instruments, the song, the sounds the instruments create, and the varying textures of the instruments.
  • As each client plays the instrument, encourage them to pass the instrument along to their peers.  This often facilitates socialization between peers regarding the music, any related memories they may recall, or regarding their experiences playing the instruments.
  • Depending on the size of your group, you may need to play the recording twice so that every client has a chance to play the instruments.
  • Prior to the end of the song, collect the rain sticks.  As the song closes, use your guitar to play and engage clients in singing the closing lines of the song together to bring a sense of closure to the activity.

Erin Potter Faile

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