Shop now open! Share your love of music and support Playlist for Life. Visit now.

Shop now open! Share your love of music and support Playlist for Life. Visit now.

A decade of harnessing meaningful music for dementia

Playlist for Life was founded in 2013 with a small team and a simple mission: to help people living with dementia through the power of meaningful music.

10 years on, we’ve helped thousands of families, carers and health and social care professionals create and benefit from personalised playlists.

And this week, we all came together, in-person and online, to celebrate a successful decade of harnessing the joy music can bring. 

Our event at Impact Arts in Glasgow was attended by around 100 guests including people with lived experience of dementia, unpaid carers, healthcare professionals and Playlist for Life staff and trustees. It was filled with emotion, inspiration and of course, birthday cake. We also held an online celebration with people from across the UK tuning in to hear from guest speakers and to take part in networking. 

A warm welcome from our board and ambassadors 

The celebrations commenced as our Honorary President and founder and Sally Magnusson reflected on her ambition to raise awareness about the power of music after discovering the positive effect it had on her mother, Mamie who lived with dementia. Joined by Vice Chair Andy Lowndes, she reflected on Playlist’s beginnings. Andy, known to many in our community as The Music Detective, also conducted a ‘Live Playlisting’ session where guests were invited to share a song and associated memory as the track was played for everyone to hear.

Playlist ambassadors Carol and Malcolm, who came to us through their Help Point at St Andrews Church in Carluke, gave a humorous and touching account of their journey of Carol’s diagnosis and how her playlist, the songs of which are expertly filed in a bright pink ring binder and played through an Alexa speaker, has helped her and husband Malcolm immensely. 

Playlist for Life changed my life. I absolutely love being an ambassador for the charity.

Carol Topper, living with dementia

Sally Magnusson, Founder and Honorary President of Playlist for Life
Carol and Malcolm Topper, lived experience ambassadors for Playlist for Life

Shared experience of 'playlisting'

Our breakout and networking sessions celebrated the breadth of organisations we’re partnered with to undertake awareness raising work via our training sessions and Help Points , and the creative ways those we’ve trained are independently using personal music for dementia and our resources. 

Our Lived Experience session was led by Willy Gilder who credits The Rolling Stones for reigniting his love of drawing and painting, a lifelong hobby he thought he had lost his flare for in the lead up to his diagnosis of early onset Alzheimer’s. Liz Wilson our longest standing volunteer, also delivered a speech. 

Talking about the role of Help Points were Michael Huddleston, a Dementia Advisor for Alzheimer Scotland and Gordon Handy from Sporting Memories. Danielle Law, a facilities co-ordinator with NHS Fife shared how she has introduced playlists for patients with a positive result. Karen Donaldson from Culture Perth and Kinross also spoke to attendees. 

We also heard from our Chair Sandra Stark, who thanked our guests for the support and reiterated the importance of meaningful music for dementia.

We then dived into further presentations from Head of Communities Rebecca Kennedy who explored the work we are doing to ensure as many people as possible know about personalised playlists, regardless of whether they live with dementia or not.  She also shared how people with lived experience and professionals within the community and dementia care can work together to create thriving playlisting communities. 


Mehar Shagufta, our Policy and Public Affairs Officers then discussed how we are influencing government strategy in managing dementia, including the work taken which led to Playlist being mentioned in the Scottish Government’s strategy for dementia and our objective to now engage with local MSPs to raise further awareness within local communities.

We want people to know about the the power of playlists now, not just at the point of diagnosis.

Rebecca Kennedy, Head of Communities, Playlist for Life 

Side effects of music and medication

While the research and scientific link of music and its benefits of dementia have been long documented, Dean McShane a Senior Mental Health Lecture at Liverpool John Moore’s University raised that the side effects of medication can be far more harmful than the side effects of music. In conversation with Sally Magnusson, Dean shared how he’s implemented Playlist for Life into student training and formed a group of student ambassadors who encourage the use of personal playlists while out on placement.

Our event concluded with a thank you from our Executive Director Michael Timmons and a sneak peek of a video we’re producing to mark our successes. We also held a celebration online for those who couldn’t join us person, again with a number of engaging presentations and networking sessions. 

And of course, a birthday celebration wouldn’t be complete without a rendition of Happy Birthday and a cake cutting, which was lovingly done by Margaret. Margaret and her late husband were one of the first families we worked with when Harry lived with dementia and used a playlist to reconnect with Margaret, proving again that something as simple as low cost as meaningful music can be the best medicine. 


In pictures: Celebrating 10 years of Playlist for Life

Gordon Handy from Sporting Memories presenting in a breakout session
Michael Huddleston from Alzheimer Scotland talks about Help Points
Senior Mental Health Lecturer at Liverpool John Moore University chats to Margaret O'Donnell
Playlist for Life's Head of Communities Rebecca Kennedy introduces a breakout session for Help Points
Alzheimer Scotland Lead Dementia Consultant Helen Skinner leading a discussion on dementia in healthcare
Our delicious birthday cake!
Our birthday display in the foyer of Impact Arts