The Power of Music

2 Feb, 2021

The Next Generation of Dementia Carers Weapon of Choice perhaps?

The power of music is undeniable, from the first notes we hear as children music stirs emotions in all of us. Playlist for Life was founded by broadcaster Sally Magnusson. After her mother Mamie’s death, Sally wrote her best-selling memoir Where Memories Go: why dementia changes everything.


In her research, she learned that this power of ‘Personal Music’ is a recognised phenomenon backed up by decades of research but was still not widely shared with families in the UK.

Playlist for Life has launched a free online training platform to help educate the next generation of health and social care professionals on the power of Music in improving the lives of people living with dementia. In her book, Sally wrote, “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.”


Since the charity started, it has trained over 6,000 health and social care professionals. It is now delivering online training due to the pandemic.

The new platforms’ first course is entitled ‘Playlist for Students’. It is a free course open to all UK higher education institutions. The course is based on more than two decades of research and trial with over 600 students at Glasgow Caledonian University.

Dementia danicing couple

Personal Music

Playlist for Life shows that ‘personal music’, specifically those tunes or songs that have meaning or help spark an emotional response or memory can help those living with dementia. They can do this by helping relieve stress, manage behaviours, and support the bond with families and carers teams.


World Health Organisation undertook a significant study in 2019 to investigate the evidence for music’s health benefits and the broader arts. It concluded that when Music was played to those living with dementia, the effects were wide-ranging. Benefits included: cutting rates of anxiety and depression; supporting cognition, aiding speech and memory; reducing the use of antipsychotic drugs, and fewer or shorter stays in the hospital.

Professor Craig Ritchie, chair of the Psychiatry of Ageing at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Brain Health Scotland, appears in the new training. He said: “Music stimulates many parts of the brain at once, meaning that even if parts of the brain have been damaged by dementia, Music can still reach other parts. Playlist for Life uses music meaningful to a person living with dementia to improve their life, and the lives of their loved ones and carers. Everyone training for a career in health and social care should take the opportunity to learn more about the power of personal playlists.”

Cost of Course

The free student training is open to all UK-based higher education institutions delivering courses in nursing, medicine, social care, music therapy and other related disciplines that seek to improve the lives of people affected by dementia. Health and social care professionals can also register their interest in training coming soon to the platform.

Dementia Music Courses

The course takes about two hours to complete and gives students an introduction to the power of Music and how to use playlists effectively through seven short modules. Through videos, animation and case studies, students are introduced to dementia and its symptoms, the evidence for Music, the ‘Music Detective’ skills needed to build playlists, and advice for introducing playlists in practice.

Family and friends information

If you would like to find out more about Playlist for Life as a family member or friend, please click here