Playlist for Life – 28 September 2021

Playlist for Life is a music and dementia charity. The charity was founded in 2013 by writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson after the death of her mother, Mamie, who had dementia. Pam Ribbick, our speaker for the evening, said their vision is simple: “we want everyone with dementia to have a unique, personal playlist and everyone who loves or cares for them to know how to use it”. She continued, that over two decades of scientific research has shown that listening to a personal playlist can improve the lives of those living with dementia. In fact, listening to music which is personally meaningful has many psychological benefits, meaning anyone can benefit from a playlist. Personal playlists can:

  • reduce anxiety
  • improve a person’s mood
  • make difficult tasks more manageable
  • evoke memories that can help families and carers connect.

Playlist for Life harnesses the powerful effects of personal music to help anyone who is affected by dementia, including families and carers. Whether it’s the music from a first dance, lullabies from childhood or a theme tune from a favourite TV show, music has the ability to take us back in time and remind us of our past, giving you that flashback feeling. Sharing songs and memories can help people living with dementia connect with family, friends and carers. This charity has taken a simple concept and used it to deliver profound results, providing a way to connect to the past and help families living with dementia. Its evidence based approach, used in hospitals and care homes, shows that people with dementia need less medication when Playlist for Life is included in their care. A ‘playlist for life’ is all the songs or pieces of music that make up the soundtrack of a life. The tunes that give that ‘flashback-feeling’, whenever they are heard, that take people back, to another time, person or place. A playlist for life will be as unique as individuals are. It can be short or long.

Pam referred to Sally’s successful book “Where Memories Go”, using a quote from the author: ‘This book began as an attempt to hold on to my witty, storytelling mother with the one thing I had to hand. Words. Then, as the enormity of the social crisis my family was part of began to dawn, I wrote with the thought that other forgotten lives might be nudged into the light along with hers. Dementia is one of the greatest social, medical, economic, scientific, philosophical and moral challenges of our times. I am a reporter. It became the biggest story of my life.’ Sally Magnusson.

Sad and funny, wise and honest, Where Memories Go is a deeply intimate account of insidious losses and unexpected joys in the terrible face of dementia, and a call to arms that challenges people to think differently about how we care for our loved ones when they need it most.

Sally, said Pam, seeks understanding from a range of experts and asks penetrating questions about how we treat older people, how we can face one of the greatest social, medical, economic and moral challenges of our times, and what it means to be human. Like many other charities, when the coronavirus pandemic led to a nationwide lockdown, Playlist for Life had to adapt its approach quickly to continue supporting people.

In conclusion, Pam stated there is no cure for dementia, but songs offer flash backs and are closely linked to a person’s identity. However, she stressed that “red flag” songs which recall bad memories should be considered and avoided.

Geoff Barber gave a heartfelt vote of thanks.