The Power of Music - Playlist for Life

Different Ways to Use Music

Over the past three years we have been looking at the different ways response time can be done with older people living in care homes. We have seen activities coordinator, Tracy King, pull out a guitar and start a session with ‘He’s got the whole world in his hands’. We’ve also seen choir leader, Yo Tozer-Loft, lead a round of singing with classics such as ‘My bonnie lies over the ocean’. In their settings with people they know, music is an effective tool to help people engage and build community.

In bigger Stories for the Soul sessions, where there are a range of people, there may be different songs that have meaning and evoke different memories for different people.

How do we keep response time individualised and yet still be in community together?

One way we have found to do this is to make personalised playlists for individuals in the group. The charity, Playlist for Life, have put together some fantastic resources.

Playlist for Life

Playlist for life is a music and dementia charity, formed by Sally Magnusson in 2013 that promotes the creation of a personally meaningful playlist but is applicable to people with different conditions as well. Personal playlists are a cheap, simple and powerful way to harness meaningful music to lessen anxiety, improve mood and comfort for the person with dementia and strengthen relationships and communication with family and friends.

Playlists are simple and fun to create. You begin by thinking about music that has meaning. For example, songs that were sung in childhood, or a theme tune that reminds you of a specific event or people - such as meeting a partner, having children, going out with friends etc. Ideally, the person recalls the piece of music themselves. The playlist can be noted down on a piece of paper, in a music journal (available on the Playlist for life website) or stored electronically. The music can be sung with the person, played on existing music players, on an MP3 player or streamed using an online music service or even watched on Youtube.

If a person isn’t able to share what they enjoy, you will need to become a ‘music detective’ by using a variety of approaches to help identify potential playlist songs. There are Help Points around the UK you can visit. A help point offers a bit more support for people trying to create a playlist.

Could you become a help point?

Playlist for Life Help Point.PNG

Playlist for Life offers free training to become a help point volunteer, including how to become a music detective. If you are already part of a community centre or church, these are ideal places to set up a help point if there isn’t one in your area.

To become a help point you need space to display a poster and put up flyers. Also, volunteers for the help point will need to be available to run a ‘cuppa time’ session. This can happen weekly, fortnightly or monthly, depending on availability. The ‘cuppa time’ is for people coming to find out about how to start a playlist and looking for tech advice.

Carrie Twist