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Playlist for Life

Category: Blog, News

The following is a guest blog for #LibrariesWeek all about Playlist for Life by their Communities Officer, Rebecca Kennedy. Playlist for Life are a music and dementia charity that advocates the use of personal playlists for people with dementia and those close to them. Playlist for Life Help Points are now in many libraries across the UK. 

Playlist for Life is a music and dementia charity with one very simple aim – we want everyone with dementia to have a unique, personal playlist and for everyone who loves or cares for them to know how to use it

The playlist of your life is made up of music with strong memories and emotions attached. Why not take a moment now to think of a song that gives you that ‘flashback feeling’ – a song that transports you back to a certain time in your life and puts a big smile on your face. Having access to this music can be a lifeline for people with dementia and can make living with dementia easier and happier.

Making a playlist is fun and easy to do. Our biggest challenge is letting people know that music helps, and this is where you come in!

60 libraries across the UK have signed up to become Playlist for Life Help Points, supporting the people who use their service to harness the power of music to help dementia. 

Becoming a Help Point has been a unique experience for every library. For many, it has been as simple as displaying a poster and leaflets. For others, it has involved engaging people in the community by including our materials in reminiscence boxes they send out to local organisations or running drop-in sessions as part of their established dementia services. 

However you choose to do it, having a Playlist for Life Help Point in your library can make an incredible impact on the people in your community. Here is a story from Helen, whose routine visit to her local library in Lochwinnoch resulted in an uplifting experience for her and her family. 

“I noticed the Playlist for Life poster when returning books in the local library. My husband still lives with me at home for the time being but his dementia is progressing rapidly. As a family, we have been struggling to connect with him at times, he becomes increasingly agitated if we’re not all in the same room together, and some days he now hardly speaks a word to us and is a lost soul for the most part. 

I popped back into the library during the Playlist for Life drop-in and spent an hour or so looking through the songbook and we listened to lots of No.1 hits from the 40s through to the 60s and made up a playlist of about ten songs. It was my 70th recently and during the birthday party in the house I put on the playlist. During the second song by The Hollies, my husband turned to everyone and said “I was 19 when I first heard this…” and half an hour later he was still holding the floor, regaling us with stories of his early 20s and through the years. That theme continued throughout the evening as the playlist moved through the songs. We’ve not had many recent happy memories to share, and they may be few and far between from now on, but I couldn’t have asked for a better birthday present to have my husband back with us, just like old times.”

We estimate that our materials are being made available to around 41,500 members of the public through our current Library Help Points, imagine the numbers we could reach if every library in the UK signed up!

As well as providing a pack of high-quality materials, Playlist for Life offers free places on a fun and informative training day that will help staff and volunteers feel confident sharing the power of music with their service users. Jacqueline Geekie of Aberdeenshire libraries said, “It will go down in history as one of the most inspirational training events we have had.” 

Help Points can be set up in any community space, but libraries are ideal locations due to their significance within local communities. Using technology and the internet is one of the biggest challenges faced by people when making a playlist and libraries are at the forefront of helping people access and develop digital skills. Most have internet access and trained volunteers to help people with technology, many already run groups for older adults and, with music libraries such as Freegal, many have a cheap and easy way of accessing music for their service users. 

If you want to share the power of playlists with your community then sign up to become a Help Point now or contact for more information. Playlist for Life has also worked in partnership with library groups in Aberdeenshire, Borders, Glasgow and London so get in touch to find out more about how to set up a network of Help Points in your region. 

To celebrate National Libraries Week we have extended our next deadline for Help Point applications to the 11th of October, so join this exciting movement by setting up a Playlist for Life Help Point in your library!

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