Soundscapes, or using sound to create positive experiences and enhance quality of life, is an important part of the living environment for older people, especially for those with dementia and other memory impairments. Addressing sensory needs by reducing negative sounds and adding positive sounds can calm anxiety, spark communication and memories and help those with memory loss retain a sense of place.
Reducing negative noise in the living environment
The ideal community design reduces unwanted noise such as background conversations, mechanical noise (such as ventilation systems), jarring alarms or phones. These sounds can echo in large, open gathering spaces such as a dining room. Several ways to reduce negative noise that can cause stress is by using sound absorbing materials, such as carpeting and acoustical ceiling tiles.
Adding positive sound in the living environment
In addition to reducing negative sounds to improve the sound environment, adding the right kinds of sounds can create positive effects such as improved health, well-being and quality of life for residents.
Because people with dementia are more sensitive to noise, unpleasant sounds and multiple sounds can lead to confusion because they don’t understand the source of the sound. Intentionally designed soundscapes that play pleasant everyday sounds can:
• Trigger pleasant memories.
• Create a sense of comfort, connection and increase social interaction.
• Improve thinking.
• Provide cues that allow people with dementia to orient and make sense of their surroundings.
Effective soundscapes may include:
• Dining room sounds such as the sound of clinking cutlery, tell residents it’s time to eat and can improve mood.
• Birds singing or a kettle boiling in the background lets residents know it’s morning to signal the start of the day.
• Nature sounds, such as the sound of a babbling brook, gentle rain or the wind blowing through trees can improve mood and ease anxiety.
• Church bells to mark the hour to create a greater perception of community and safety.
• Relaxing sounds, such as a heartbeat, create calm and signal the end of the day or bedtime and improve sleep.
Soundscapes are a powerful and beneficial tool for ensuring the greatest quality of life for residents. If you would like to know more about how our community goes above and beyond to ensure every resident enjoys a supportive, healing and positive sound environment, visit www.prescommunities.org