Dementia Friendly Music Player

My dad could no longer operate a CD player or iPod. But he could use the music player that I designed and made for him, because it operates like a familiar two-knob radio. I was inspired to make this by the documentary Alive Inside which shows the profound joy felt by some people with dementia when listening to their favorite music.

My Dad using an early prototype, immersed in Beethoven

Can I make one?

Yes! It doesn’t require much technical skill. No soldering. No woodworking. It mostly requires following the instructions. Takes 3-5 hours, depending on the model. Things you’ll be doing: ordering parts, applying glue, screwing things in, plugging in wires, downloading software, and maybe applying some linseed oil to the wood. Also, it’s the kind of project that friends and family would be happy to help you with.

What does it cost?

I don’t sell anything – this is open source. I publish very clear step-by-step instructions with good photographs. You do need some electronic parts – the instructions have a list of electronic parts, which usually cost about $70. And you need the custom case. Most people simply mail order the case from an online laser shop for ~$50. Alternatively, if you have access to a 3D printer or laser cutter, you can make the case yourself using my open source design files.

Heartwarming feedback

I recently assembled a dqmusicbox per your instructions – and it just . worked. Yesterday I turned over my incarnation of the box to my father. It has been a long time since I saw such an emotional reaction from him. I let him at it without explanations at all, and he made it work without instructions. … Some of his favorites triggered immediate responses – I should have filmed it. — Ketil

Make the headphones model – bamboo

cherry model
Vintage cathedral style
Laser cut it yourself, or order case for ~$50
And order the electronic parts for ~$65
Step by Step Build Instructions with Photos


Make the headphones model – 3D printed

3D printed modelSame as above, but 3D printed
3D print it yourself or with a friend
And order the electronic parts for ~$75
Thanks to Trey Bagley for designing this case
Step by Step Build Instructions with Photos


Make the headphones + speakers model

Cherry model with speakers insideThe only model with built-in speakers
Laser cut it yourself, or order case for ~$80
And order the electronic parts for ~$135
Step by Step Build Instructions with Photos

If you enjoy making assistive technology projects like this, you might enjoy some of the maker projects at Makers Making Change. They “connect makers to people with disabilities who need assistive technology”. They have a nice library of helpful projects.

Ross Porter


2 thoughts on “Dementia Friendly Music Player

  1. bob skevington

    Thanks for this, I will try to build with my grandson’s help! I want to provide some music to my oldest brother.


  2. You are welcome! If you or your grandson have any questions, please feel free to e-mail me.


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