Transforming Undergraduate Student Perceptions of Dementia through Music and Filmmaking

Jennie Gubner, Alexander K. Smith, Theresa A. Allison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: With nearly 6 million people with dementia (PWD) in the United States, there is a critical need to build an interprofessional dementia workforce. Among the novel approaches to expanding a new workforce, music and the arts show promise for engaging students and trainees. To understand how and why the arts affect attitudes about and engagement with PWD, we examined a service-learning general education undergraduate course centering on music, filmmaking, and dementia. METHODS: The undergraduate course curriculum brought students to meet with PWD in dementia care settings, build personalized music playlists, coproduce short films about PWD, and write reflective essays. Two researchers independently completed inductive thematic analysis of the films, essays, and course evaluations. Differences were reconciled by consensus. RESULTS: A total of 52 students from three classes completed the course; 24 (46%) were majoring in health sciences. Three key themes emerged: (1) Music helps students connect with people living with dementia in meaningful ways; (2) filmmaking offers students the opportunity to share unique, person-centered stories about dementia and music that empower the voices of PWD; and (3) reflective writing enables students to process new experiences and lessons learned. Unexpectedly, 29 students (56%) reported continued engagement with PWD in their careers, families, and communities after course completion. CONCLUSION: This study identifies reproducible ways in which undergraduate arts courses thematically focused on dementia not only transform student perceptions about dementia but change the ways in which those students choose to engage with PWD following course completion. Arts and music departments may represent an untapped resource for building a geriatrics workforce. J Am Geriatr Soc 68:1083–1089, 2020.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1083-1089
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • creative aging
  • ethnography
  • medical humanities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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