Playlist of Our Lives

Playlist For Life and its 10 anniversary event in Glasgow Scotland

Music is so intertwined with our memories, the important times in our lives.  It’s music that stirs emotions – happiness, total joy, sadness, comfort.  It’s a comfort then, that as we get older, maybe as we lose certain parts of our memory, we can depend on music to be the playlist of our lives.

I am a child of the 80s.  I was watching old episodes of Top of The Pops the other night and there was Boy George on his very first performance with Culture Club.  And although I was only cough cough years old then, I remember it like yesterday.  I hear Duran Duran and Wham and I am right back there, feeling exactly how I felt with my first crush on Simon Le Bon. Every word, every melody, every note is ingrained.  

Isn’t music, then a wonderful tool to evoke memories?  To allow us to transport to those times in our lives?

Playlist For Life

Playlist for Life is a music and dementia charity founded in 2013.  Writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson started the charity following the death of her mother Mamie, who had dementia.  Sally had cared for Mamie at home and had found such power in the music that her mother listened to.  Together with mental health nurse Andy Lowdnes, the two worked together to demonstrate just how music could bring such joy to those living with the illness.  

And the power of personal music was found not just to lift spirits but to improve function.  In working with Harry and Margaret in Craiglea Care Home in Renfrew, Sally and Andy found the effects of the music went far beyond uplifting mood.  Harry had not been talking for six months.  After listening to music that was meaninful to him Harry began to speak to Margaret.  And that’s the power of Playlist for Life.

Laura Redpath is the Communications Officer for the Charity. Laura explained exactly what a Playlist for life is.

A Playlist for Life is our life soundtrack. Think songs from your first gig, a song that reminds you of your parents, songs from your school days, your first dance, a special holiday. Those are the tunes attached to our core memories and make up our Playlist for Life.’

The evidence in support of the phenomenal effect the playlists have is quite astounding.  In working with Lilyburn Care Home in Kirkintilloch, the charity helped reduce the use of medication by 60%.  ‘A personal playlist may reduce anxiety; improve mood; make difficult tasks – such as personal care – more manageable and evoke memories that can bring a feeling of connection.’ explains Laura. ‘Some may respond instantly, for others it might be a more gradual process as everybody’s dementia journey is different. To get the most out of music, it’s important to use songs that are personally meaningful to the person listening.’

The Effect of Music

With 20 years of scientific research supporting their findings, it’s incredibly encouraging for those living with dementia – and their carers.  Laura says, ‘Playlists can be beneficial for carers, too. There’s a lot of pressure on unpaid carers, who may find that dementia has changed their relationship with a partner or family member. Sometimes one song can spark a memory or emotion and foster connections, bringing a shimmer of joy a tough day.’

Such are the benefits, over the past 8 years Playlist For Life have trained over 10,000 health and social care professional so they themselves can deliver ‘person centred’ care through the playlists.  Even the Scottish Fire and Rescue as well as the Police, work in partnership with the charity in order to share the information on home safety visits and community policing.  

Having celebrated its 10th birthday, Playlist for Life isn’t stopping there.  With 900,000 people living with dementia in the UK, their mission is to ensure everyone living with the disease has access to a personal playlist.  Laura adds, 

Last year we were recognised and signposted in the Scottish Government’s Dementia Strategy as a non-pharmacological intervention that ‘may improve cognition, social engagement, and quality of life and decrease stress and stress’ which takes us one step closer to having personal playlists embedded in health and social care.’

What’s Next?

The charity aims for 2024 continue to be ambitious.  With no sign of a cure for the disease so far, Playlist for Life will continue to keep their feet on the accelerator when it comes to influencing policies on dementia care and keeping the disease in the nations conscience. With extremely successful campaigns in the charity’s 10th anniversary year of 2023, National Playlist Day for 2024 looks to be bigger and better.

What a journey the charity has been on.  And the proof is in the pudding… or in the music.  The power of meaningful music does seem to extend far beyond happiness, joy or sadness.  Playlist for Life are ensuring both patients and carers can reconnect with life and each other.  What a gift.

My mum lived with dementia.  My love of music came from her. And my love of music from the 50’s comes from the music she loved.  So when I hear “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” I too am transported. To my wedding day, dancing with my wee mum to the playlist of our lives. And that’s a memory I’ll always have – because of music. 

Interested in learning more on making a Playlist For Life?

Visit the charity’s website at  for support, information on where to start.  

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