Founder of music and dementia charity Playlist for Life is recognised in Birthday Honours List for services to people with dementia and their carers
Writer and broadcaster Sally Magnusson founded Playlist for Life ten years ago after discovering the power music held for her mother, Mamie, who lived with dementia and died in 2012.
Sally set up the charity with former mental health nurse and academic Andy Lowndes, and has been involved for the past decade. She chaired it for seven years and continues to champion its work alongside her broadcasting and writing career in her current role as Honorary President on the board of trustees.
Playlist for Life promotes the use of personally meaningful music for people living with dementia, a recognised phenomenon backed up by decades of scientific research. Sally discovered this by accident when caring for her mother, who was able to be brought back to a sense of herself through the music she had loved throughout her life, before her dementia took over.
After Mamie’s death Sally wrote her Sunday Times bestselling memoir ‘Where Memories Go: Why Dementia Changes Everything’, which fuelled momentum for the charity by raising public conversations about the impact of dementia on families and seeded the idea of personal music as a crucial tool in keeping those living with it connected to themselves and to others.
Playlist for Life was established through Sally’s desire to share what she had learnt with other families dealing with the effects of dementia. The charity’s mission is for everyone living with dementia to have their own personalised playlist featuring the ‘soundtrack of their life’. Research has shown that personally meaningful music can help those living with dementia by alleviating stress, managing symptoms and strengthening relationships with family members and carers.
This week the charity celebrates its 10th anniversary, having officially registered with OSCR (Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator) on 12th June 2013.
Since then, Playlist for Life has expanded across the UK to share the power of personally meaningful music with thousands of people living with dementia, their families and carers. They have trained over 9,000 health and social care professionals and students, established partnerships with almost 2,500 community groups and organisations and been used in NHS wards and care homes throughout the UK. Playlist for Life was mentioned in the Scottish Government’s new Dementia Strategy as a non-pharmacological intervention that could help people living with dementia and recognised by the Welsh Government for its work in improving lives of residents in Welsh care homes.
Sally Magnusson said:
“The award comes less than a week after we celebrated the tenth birthday of Playlist for Life – which is wonderful because this honour really is one for the team.
I wrote Where Memories Go and founded Playlist for Life in an attempt to help families navigating the same hard road that my family had been on with my beloved mother Mamie, who died in 2012. That experience led me to conclude that dementia, in its many forms, is one of the greatest social, medical, economic, scientific, philosophical and moral challenges of our times.
In particular, I wanted people to know that music and song – the personal soundtrack to a human life – has immense benefits. It can offer periods of happiness and flashes of joy. It can re-connect a person to those they love and – crucially – to the person they sense they are losing: their own self.
I’m grateful to everyone who has joined me in championing this message over the last ten years. If the honour encourages just one family to check out our website and make a personalised playlist for their loved one, I’ll be delighted.”