Pharmacies have been instrumental in helping people with dementia recover precious memories through music that is meaningful for them, says Rebecca Kennedy, head of communities at the charity Playlist for Life

From improving wellbeing to strengthening relationships with families and loved ones, the benefits of music for people living with dementia are multiple. Pharmacies have been helping to spread the word.

Playlist for Life is the UK’s leading music and dementia charity, raising awareness about the power of personally meaningful music to help people living with dementia.

Our vision is simple: that every person with dementia should have access to a unique personal playlist and everyone who loves and cares for them should know how to use it, to improve the lives of people living with dementia. In the absence of a cure, music that is special to the individual can have transformative effects.

Personal playlists have been proven to reduce anxiety, improve mood, make difficult tasks more manageable and evoke memories that can help people living with dementia to connect with their families and carers.1,2,3,4

In 2020, we were chosen by GSK and The King’s Fund from over 400 UK charities as overall winner of the GSK Impact Award. Katie Pinnock, director of UK and Ireland Charitable Partnerships at GSK, said: ‘[Playlist for Life] 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 is highly impressive, with trials in hospitals and care homes showing that people with dementia need less medication when Playlist for Life is included in their care.’

Describing her experience with Playlist for Life, one family member said: ‘It’s probably one of the very few positive things that has happened in my husband’s life since his dementia took over. It took him away from his condition and back to his tastes as a person. It actually brought a little bit of him back for a while. I found it a very moving experience.

Since 2015, we have been sharing this powerful tool in a range of ways, training almost 9,000 health and social care professionals on using personal playlists in dementia care and giving resources to over 2,000 community organisations to share the power of music with people they support. Reaching people in the community is key, as it is estimated that 61% of the people living with dementia in the UK live at home.5

A playlist is most effective when a person living with dementia can take an active role in choosing the right music and building it into their own care. This means that the earlier people find out that music can help the better.6

Community pharmacy teams are often well established within the community, have strong relationships with the local population, and a good understanding of their needs and challenges.7 As such, pharmacies are well placed to introduce those living with dementia and families in their community to this simple yet powerful intervention.

Playlist for Life has shared resources with pharmacies across the UK who display them in the pharmacy and signpost people to start using personally meaningful music.

If you would also like to share Playlist for Life leaflets, sign up for a resource pack. Our free resources are now available in Bengali, simplified Chinese, Gaelic (Scottish), Gujarati, Hindi, Nepalese, Polish, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu and Welsh.

If you want to find out more about how playlists can benefit people with dementia or how you could use Playlist for Life in your role, do attend our free Introduction to Care Professionals webinar.


  1. Vasionytė I, Madison G. Musical intervention for patients with dementia: a meta-analysis. J Clin Nurs. 2013;22(9–10):1203–16.
  2. Ueda T, Suzukamo Y, Sato M, Izumi SI. Effects of music therapy on behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev. 2013 Mar 1;12(2):628–41.
  3. de Oliveira AM, Radanovic M, de Mello PCH, Buchain PC, Vizzotto ADB, Celestino DL, et al. Nonpharmacological interventions to reduce behavioral and psychological symptoms of dementia: A systematic review. BioMed Res Int. 2015;2015:218980.
  4. Steen JT van der, Smaling HJ, Wouden JC van der, Bruinsma MS, Scholten RJ, Vink AC. Music‐based therapeutic interventions for people with dementia. Cochrane Database Syst Rev [Internet]. 2018;(7). Available from:
  5. Prince, M et al (2014) Dementia UK: update second edition report produced by King’s College London and the London School of Economics for the Alzheimer’s Society
  6. Gerdner LA. Individualized music for dementia: Evolution and application of evidence-based protocol. World J Psychiatry. 2012 Apr 22;2(2):26–32.