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Playlist for Life

29 Aug 2019


“I would have given anything for someone to say ‘Try this. It’s not a cure but it can help. You can still have moments of happiness and flashes of joy...’ No-one says that very often to families living with dementia.”


These powerful words are from Sally Magnuson, founder of Playlist for Life. The music for dementia charity which has been a revolutionary help for families living with the condition since its establishment back in 2013. The program looks to evoke memories and emotions from various milestones and events in a person’s life. This could be songs from their childhood, a holiday or a favourite television shows. There a lots of opportunities to conjure up a diverse range of memories for the listener.

Individualised music is known to have an extremely positive impact on the memories of those living with dementia, helping to alleviate certain symptoms. It allows patients to recall memories and emotions linked to certain songs. It is very special in the way that it stimulates the human brain, triggering many different parts at once. This means that even when certain parts of the brain are damaged, music can still reach others. Studies by both the NHS and Standford University have shown that when properly utilised, individualised music can reduce the requirement for medication, can alleviate stress and common dementia behaviours.


To put all of this into context, imagine the first dance at your wedding. Think of the emotions you would feel while this one song that you and your life partner painstakingly chose together is played with you both dancing in a warm embrace. Every time you hear that song, you would always think of that very special moment. While somebody living with dementia may forget something like their wedding day, listening to said song can help to evoke these beautiful memories once more.

Here at Cornerstone, we are huge advocates of music for dementia. Particularly in our Canalside service where support worker Kirsty has been incorporating ‘Playlist for Life’ into the care they provide. Canalside is a day service located in Wester Hailes where those living with dementia can visit. It offers some much needed respite for the people we support, with many visiting up to three times a week. A usual day consists of some toast and hot drinks upon arrival, followed by some fun activities such as bowling, yoga or quizzes, to name a few. A two-course lunch is then served, followed by even more fun activities taking everybody into the afternoon. Many of the activities at the service have music incorporated into them in any way possible. Be that simply playing music, or having a music quiz, this can all help to bring something back.

Kirsty has recently finished her Playlist for Life training, and is in the process of introducing the wonderful project to other Cornerstone colleagues. The people we support at Canalside love any activity which involves music and Kirsty shares a very similar music taste to all of the attendees. She is currently making up a Playlist for Life for each person, with the programme providing the service with mp3 players and headphones so the people we support can enjoy all of their memory provoking songs!

More information on Playlist for Life can be found right here. Follow the link to find out how the programme helps people living with dementia, alleviating many of the challenges that comes with it.