Playlist for Life in Castle Douglas

The one thing dementia cannot destroy is our ability to respond to music. Evidence shows that if people with dementia are offered regular access to the soundtrack of their lives it can improve mood, awareness, ability to understand and think, and a sense of identity.

On Wednesday 12th August, the charity Playlist for Life, which was started by broadcaster Sally Magnusson to bring personal music to people with dementia on iPods, will launch an online training course for healthcare professionals and a Playlist for Families series of videos at Carlingwark House, Buchan, Castle Douglas. These will enable care staff and relatives at home to create a playlist of personally meaningful music to help people with dementia to reconnect with themselves and their loved ones.

The interactive training for health and social care staff will be available on the Playlist for Life website ( It begins with Sally Magnusson telling the story of the effect of music on her mother’s dementia. It then explains the science of how music affects the brain, the detective work that creates the best playlist and how to implement the intervention in professional care settings. Staff who complete the training are given access to an exclusive online community of practice, providing peer support and advice.

Playlist for Families, incorporating some of the same material but focussed on families, is a much-needed tool for people newly diagnosed with dementia and relatives caring for someone at home. The videos can be viewed online at ( or by requesting a free DVD.

Playlist for Life founder and chair, Sally Magnusson said, “For many years I watched the enlivening effect of music on my mother. It could bring her back to us like nothing else. Since starting Playlist for Life two years ago I have seen people all over the country access their musical past on iPods and rediscover who they are, for periods at a time, in the same way.

“Neuroscientists are uncovering the astonishing effects of music on virtually every region of our brain. Our new training programme explains what the science is telling us and how we can use music to do what no drug yet discovered can – reconnect a person to themselves and those they love.”

The Playlist for Life programme is being implemented within a growing number of NHS hospitals and care homes across the UK.

Carlingwark House, an award-winning specialist care home in Dumfries and Galloway and part of the national social care charity, Community Integrated Care, began using Playlist for Life in 2014 and has seen a significant impact on those who have been using personal playlists.

Team Leader and current Carer of the Year (Scottish Care Awards), Kelly Henderson said, “By developing personalised playlists, we’ve been able to improve the health, happiness and wellbeing of people who live with dementia, no matter how complex their needs are. When people listen to the songs that are important to them, they light up and reconnect with treasured memories. We’ve had amazing outcomes – from seeing people who normally do not communicate with words suddenly speak, to people eating and drinking better, after listening to their playlists.”

She continues, “But as importantly, Playlist for Life has given us a greater appreciation of the people we support and their life-history. This helps us to build stronger relationships with our residents and to support them better. We’re very excited that many more carers from across the country will be able to benefit from Playlist for Life, through their new online training course.”

The online training will also be available next year on a Playlist for Life app, being designed in collaboration with Glasgow Caledonian University. It will be informed by robust research evidencing the impact of personal music on the wellbeing of those living with dementia and is being funded by the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation and The Gordon and Ena Baxter Foundation.