We Were Featured on WMUK 102.1 FM: Have a listen!

Dean-Solden-Vibrant-Life-Senior-LivingI was recently interviewed on WMUK 102.1 FM where I spoke about the importance of memory care in combating dementia and Alzheimer’s. I’d like to give a big shout out to WMUK for having me on and helping spread the word about a topic I am so passionate about. It was truly a delightful experience.

Click the orange button below to hear the full interview.

About WMUK

WMUK 102.1 FM is owned and operated by Western Michigan University and broadcasts across Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana. They are a non-profit public radio station and charter member of NPR . They are also affiliates of American Public Media (APM) and Public Radio International (PRI). WMUK also provides international programming from the BBC World Service and the CBC.

“Music does something for everyone,” Solden says. “Most people can relate to the joy you feel listening to music on various levels. For dementia specifically, they are just people with dementia, so they get the joy that anybody gets out of music. But what a lot of people don’t know is that music can actually improve functioning and mood. Music helps the brain. Your brain has multiple parts to it. When you listen actively or participate in music, it lights up all parts of your brain. Music helps everything to do with the brain.” says Dean Solden.

Click here to listen to the full interview and read excerpts. 

Radio Interview


More Information on Music Therapy and Memory Care

Our music program is a big part of what we do at Vibrant Life. Here is some additional information on why it is so important in the work we do with senior care.

The Science Behind Music Therapy to Combat Dementia

Vibrant Life’s Music Therapy Program 

Don’t Define Me, Just Remind Me (music video)

Want to Know More About Music Therapy?

If you or someone you love is experiencing memory loss issues we’d love to talk with you about our program. Vibrant Life has four locations throughout Michigan with care ranging from assisted living to memory care services. Music therapy is central to the culture and well-being of our staff and our residents.

To learn more please call us at the nearest facility or fill out a contact form.


The Science Behind Music Therapy to Combat Dementia

Music therapy is used in all types of situations to help people process challenges and deal with mental, emotional, and even physical difficulties. All you have to do is listen to your favorite song or hymn to know that music is powerful. It can instantly make you feel better or transport you to a memory or feeling with just a few bars or lyrics.

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” ― Plato

When your loved one has dementia there are so many things that are hard for them to recall. Some days are better than others and you find yourself thinking, “Is mom going to remember me this time?” or “Will dad know what I am talking about?” But one thing you can almost always be sure of is seeing their face light up when they hear a familiar song. The sparkle in their eye comes back, their smile lights up, and you see the person you know and love shine through. Music is magical that way!

Music therapy is a key ingredient in combating different forms of dementia. There are a lot of studies being done to determine the science behind why it helps. Even without knowing the science, it’s easy to see that music therapy help. Many memory care facilities have instituted programs that focus on music. This includes not just listening to music, but actively participating in singing and movement.

Learn more about Vibrant Life’s music therapy initiatives. 

music therapy

Related: Spirit of Caring Documentary about the Tic-Toc Choir

How Music Therapy Helps with Dementia

The place we store musical memories in the brain is separate from traditional memory networks. This music memory part is one of the last parts to be affected by dementia.

Also, listening to music activates many parts of our brain, not just the single area designated for music. Because of this, music can temporarily “unlock” memories when it stimulates parts of the brain that are affected by dementia.  This is possible because we don’t really lose memories, but rather we can lose access to memories. They are still in the brain somewhere, we just might not be able to recall them.

Here’s how it works:

While listening to music some dementia patients experience better autobiographical and “involuntary memory” recall. This is because those memories reside in the same part of the brain that is being stimulated by the music. The music provides a sort of magical key for accessing the memories. Many patients also experience a temporary improvement in speech and word recall.

The effects of this “unlocking” can even last for a short period of time after listening to music and/or singing.

Music can also:

  • improve our emotional state by lowering stress levels
  • improve sleep by increasing melatonin levels
  • balance hormones without drug therapy

Moving and Grooving with Music Therapy

An added bonus to music therapy is the benefit of moving and exercise. As you know, it is virtually impossible to hear a catchy tune and remain perfectly still while the beat plays around you. Toe-tapping, head bobbing, or the occasional jig are very common. People in memory care need to stay physically active and healthy as much as possible. Music makes us feel good so we are motivated to move to the groove.

Dancing at Vibrant Life Senior Living in Durand Mi

Can music help your loved one with dementia? It’s certainly worth a try as you experience a favorite song or hymn together while tapping your toes and smiling.

Want to Know More About Music Therapy?

If you or someone you love is experiencing memory loss issues we’d love to talk with you about our program. Vibrant Life has four locations throughout Michigan with care ranging from assisted living to memory care services. Music therapy is central to the culture and well-being of our staff and our residents.

Our Tic-Toc Choir has a music video called “Don’t Define Me, Just Remind Me” which launched a world premiere in December 2019. You can check it out here.

To learn more please call us at the nearest facility or fill out a contact form.


Don’t Define Me, Just Remind Me

New Friends Memory Care has created an innovative “memory care choir” consisting of its residents with memory care issues, called the New Friends Memory Care, “Tic-Toc” Choir. The group is receiving national attention, with a recent mini-documentary created by Direct Supply out of Milwaukee, entitled, “The Spirit of Caring.” Musical Director and New Friends and Vibrant Life founder, professional musician, Dean Solden wrote the song for the residents of the community, inspired by their “ferocious will to live and still be themselves, and not be defined by their dementia.” The music video helps de-sensitize the concept of people having dementia, especially those with early cognitive or memory care issues.

Quality of Care: What Should I Look For in Assisted Living?

Evaluating Quality of Care in Assisted Living Communities

Group of Senior FriendsAt Vibrant Life Senior Living, we understand that finding the right care for your loved one can be a stressful experience. You may not know what to look for or the questions to ask, and each person has their own unique needs and challenges that can influence your priorities. When weighing your options, we recommend starting with the most basic and essential factor: quality of care.  

Whether you’re looking for home care, assisted living, or a nursing home, quality of care is critical. It has a significant impact on both physical and mental health, and inadequate care can quickly become dangerous to your loved one’s wellbeing. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to evaluate the quality of care. 

What is Quality of Care?

The World Health Organization defines the quality of care as “the extent to which health care services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes. In order to achieve this, health care must be safe, effective, timely, efficient, equitable and people-centered.”

How Can I Assess the Quality of Care in Assisted Living?

There are several ways you can evaluate the quality of care in assisted living communities:

Compare Your Care Needs to the Care Provided

Fully understanding your loved one’s care needs will help you better evaluate the quality of care in each community. For example, do they “just need a hand” or require more comprehensive care? Is memory care needed? Will they need access to support services like physical therapy?

Although these questions may seem daunting, having a clearly defined list of what care you need will help narrow down your options. If mom has progressive memory loss, but the community you’re considering doesn’t offer late-stage support, it may not be a viable long-term solution, and it’s good to know this before you commit! 

To begin this process, we recommend talking to your loved one’s doctors and anyone else involved in their care to get a better understanding of how they are doing physically, mentally, and emotionally. Once you have a picture of your loved one’s needs, you can begin ruling out (or factoring in) your assisted living communities based on the care they provide.

Check Assisted Living Records and Reports

Assisted living communities must meet specific criteria, but violations do happen. Although the frequency of inspections and amounts of public data can vary from state to state, in many cases, you can look online to see an individual community’s performance. This directory lists assisted living licensing websites by state, “where you can find regulation standards in your state, as well as individual, assisted living facility inspection summaries and violation histories.”

Look Past the Obvious When Touring

An assisted living community may have a beautiful building and five-star amenities, but that does not necessarily translate to quality of care. When touring, ask questions of your guide, passing staff, and current residents. Interacting with the community will help you get a better “feel” for the environmental elements that matter and the care you will receive. You will also uncover useful insights about response times, staff credentials, and resident safety.

Quality of Care: The Vibrant Life Difference

The Vibrant Life Senior Living Communities have a simple but unique mission: help the seniors who live in our communities continue to have truly meaningful lives. Regardless of cognitive or physical needs, we are committed to helping each person have a vibrant life while we deliver quality care quietly and respectfully in the background.

Group of senior friends support the community

We do this by training each one of our “CareFriends” to implement personalized care plans that emphasize relationship building and meaningful activities. Each one of our communities has a full event calendar of activities so residents, family, and friends can continue to connect over shared interests. 

We tailor the level of care we provide to each resident’s individual needs, and our professional care services range from the activities of daily living (ADLs) to support services like physical therapy.

For more information about Vibrant Life Senior Living, contact us today.


Amazing Grace: Recognizing a Lifetime of Experiences

Amazing Grace

Sam was sitting quietly by himself in a row of chairs that had been placed theater style in the rectangular dining room turned music room. I was facing him on the other side of the room, as I was setting up my equipment for a gig at New Friends Memory Care and Assisted Living, where we had put together a choir from many of the people who live there. Many of us older musicians now play regularly in senior communities. It is a gig that suits our aging bodies. We only have to play for one hour, not three or four; the setup is relatively easy with the new, lightweight keyboards, amps and speakers; and the pay is decent — anywhere from fifty to a hundred bucks for the sixty-minute performance. Best of all, the audience is almost always gracious, happy, and appreciative. People love music, especially eighty and ninety-year-olds in senior communities, it seems. They participate in many types of activities, but music and bingo seem to bring out the most enthusiasm. (I get the music, but am still surprised at the bingo.)

Sam was one of those audience members, and he was watching me with curiosity. He used to be an electrician but hasn’t been for almost twenty years now. Sam has dementia, specifically Alzheimer’s Disease, but you almost wouldn’t know it (nearly fifty percent of everyone with dementia has Alzheimer’s). Up until a few months ago, he had been in the earlier stage, where he could bathe and dress, walk and eat and carry on a decent conversation with you. But lately his conversations are shorter and quieter, he is shuffling a bit more, and I can tell each day he is not as aware of his surroundings as he used to be. He has gotten into the habit of just sitting and watching, not engaging or participating in the activity of the moment unless someone asks him to.

I’ve always been a bit messy with the long, black cords that hook the keyboard and mic to the mixer, the mixer to the speakers, and the speakers to each other. There are different types of cables for each one of those functions: a quarter inch phone jack for the keyboards, a similar but slightly different one for the speakers, and an XLR plug for the microphones. I was in a bit of a rush, so I just dumped the cords out of my bag onto a table as I began my setup. I have a routine after all these years; I like to put all the equipment up first in its place, and then at the end, I plug in all the cords.

Senior hooking up cables for the Vibrant Life Senior Living Choir

As I put together my keyboard stand, I glanced over and noticed that Sam was no longer sitting in his chair by the window. He had gotten up and walked over to my pile of tangled up cords. And then, surprisingly, Sam picked up a gaggle of three or four of them, holding up this big unwieldy pile that looked like spaghetti. He stared at them for a while; it seemed like a minute or so. But then he started untangling them.  

I was amazed. I hadn’t seen Sam this active in months. I stopped what I was doing and watched Sam. His face was soft but intense; he was concentrating. I watched his hands. He was not grabbing wildly, hoping that by just pulling and tugging, the cords would untangle. No, he was steady and meticulous, like the professional electrician he once was. He saw an opening, and he saw where one wire was curling around another one, two, three times, and, like a surgeon, delicately unraveled the first cord. He smiled at his success. He then went after the second cord, looping the wire through a series of other wires until finally, it popped free. He smiled again.

I finished setting up my speakers as the others started milling into the newly created music room. They, too, were observing Sam, and surprised by his activity. They started pointing and nodding and talking to each other about it. I could tell they were proud of him. 

By the time I finished setting up all the hardware, Sam had completed his task. All the cords were neatly untangled, set up in a perfect row on the table, looking almost like new. Sam was standing there, beaming. I had tears in my eyes. I had never seen him with this expression. He looked different. I could see the “old” Sam. I could see him with a workman’s belt around him, knives and cutters and tools in hand, hooking up washing machines and dryers, repairing furnaces. I could see him analyzing a problem and then meticulously wiring up an electrical box. I could see Sam, the man, the electrician, not Sam, the guy sitting by the window, who has dementia.

Audio jack and wires connected to audio mixer at Vibrant Life choir Practice

As I am want to do, I took a chance. I had finished setting up all the equipment, and I was ready to plug in the cords. I wondered if Sam could do that as well. 

“Sam, could you bring one of those cords over and help me hook this stuff up?” I asked. He looked at me like a cat ready to pounce. He quickly glanced at the table of cords and somehow took the correct speaker cord and came over. “Can you plug in this cord into that speaker?” Without hesitation, he gripped the quarter inch phone jack in his now seemingly strong hands. He touched the female end of the jack on the speaker. He felt the male end in his hand. And like a pro, with confidence, and without hesitation, snapped the cord into place. He looked at me with a grin, and I grinned back. 

“Great,” I said enthusiastically.  “Good job! Let’s do the other one. Grab the other speaker cord, and let’s do it again.” He quickly walked over to the table, grabbed the other speaker cord (now he knew the difference between the cables) and followed me to the speaker. His gait was faster, and he seemed to stand up straighter. He was on a mission. I pointed to the other speaker, giving him just a cue of where the speaker jack was, tapping it, without providing any additional instruction. He understood and quickly snapped the second cord into place as if the synapsis in his brain had equally snapped in. He was in his groove.       

I had hooked up the mixing board to the speaker. Now there was a more challenging task, hooking up the microphone to the mixing board. But first, the mic had to be hooked up to the microphone cord. I picked them both off the table and handed it to him. “Here,” I said. “Put these together.” Sam studied the mic and the cord and quickly figured out which end should go into the mic.  Without hesitation, he expertly put the correct end into the mic. I could hear it snap in place.  

RGB video and XLR audio digital cables in the rear panel of the professional VCR.

We had one act to go. We now had to put the funny looking XLR end of the mic cable into the mixing board. There are about a half dozen inputs on the mixing board, so you have to know what you are doing. I took another chance. “Sam, see if you can find the male end of the XLR input on the mixing board and put the female end of the XLR cord into it.” I held my breath. Plugging in this cable was a little complicated.

Sam walked over to the mixing board and bent over. He put his hand on one end and slowly swept his fingers across all the inputs. He felt the XLR cord in his hand and, after a moment, took the end of the cable and put it up against the board. He tried matching the wire with the different inputs one by one, almost like a jigsaw puzzle. After the third attempt, he had found the right opening and adeptly pushed the cable into place. He then stood up and wiped off his hands, as if wiping the grease off of them.

By now, everyone was sitting in their seats, ready for the choir to begin. However, they weren’t thinking about singing. Sam was now the show. They were all quiet as they watched us finish setting up. They were smiling, almost in shock. Here was Sam, the quiet guy, who out of the fifteen or so of the people who lived there was not the most functioning person. But here he was, in front of everyone, helping me set up my rig like an expert. They saw a new Sam. Or maybe they saw the old Sam, the working man, the man he had been for fifty years. He acted and looked different. As I watched them watch Sam, I couldn’t help but feel that they were not only thinking about Sam, but they were thinking about themselves as well. They saw themselves up there, helping me set up. They were seeing and imagining themselves doing what they used to do; Eleanor, the teacher, up in front of the classroom, lecturing about American history; Don, the accountant, at his desk going over taxes with a client; Bill, the builder, hammering studs up at a construction site. 

As Sam and I finished and we stood in the center of the room, I stretched my arms out, with my head high, signaling the end of the setup, as if it were the end of a performance. The audience, picking up my cue, began to clap. And then, I lowered my right arm and gestured toward Sam, as if he were the featured soloist. The applause rose and rose, louder and louder, like in a theater, as if the featured actor had come out for his curtain call. Sam didn’t get it at first, but then he did, and he moved his head in little movements from one side to the other,  taking it in. He had a grin on his face, gave a slight nod, and then walked back to his chair by the window, a little taller, a little stronger, as we then all got ready to sing Amazing Grace.

Author Bio


Author Dean Solden is the founder and co-owner of Vibrant Life Senior Living and has been a leader in the senior health care business for the past thirty years. He also is a professional musician (DeanSoldenmusic.com), writer, speaker, and playwright. He can be contacted at deansolden@gmail.com.

Dean Solden joins Shelley Irwin and a panel of distinguished guests on WGVU’s Family Health Matters

WGVU Family Health Matters Season 19 Episode 5 Dean Solden in Panel Discussion regarding Alzheimer's and DementiaDean Solden joins Shelley Irwin and a panel of distinguished guests on WGVU’s Family Health Matters to discuss important Alzheimers and Dementia topics, including:

  • When should I look at assisted living for my Mom or Dad?
  • What trends do professionals see in Dementia care?
  • How can I recognize Alzheimers or Dementia?
  • How do Assisted Living and Memory Care Communities spend their days with the people who live there?
  • What does it mean to care for the caregiver?