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How to create a memory-boosting playlist for your elderly loved one

The auditory system is the first part of the brain to fully develop, and one of the last functions to leave us as we get older.

This makes music a potent tool for eliciting memories and improving overall quality of life in people with dementia. Learn how to make a playlist for your loved one and give them the soothing gift of nostalgia.

Music therapy is integral for people with dementia

Dementia causes people to experience the world in a more fragmented and distorted way as it removes factual information but leaves the emotional context behind. Music can penetrate this confusion and provide clarity by facilitating memory recall in a way that other forms of communication are no longer able to.

How to create a suitable playlist

Recording the playlist

There are a variety of ways to record a playlist, and each possess their own unique set of benefits. Options include:

  • CD/cassette: Your loved one may be more familiar with older technologies such as CDs and cassettes. Specific listening equipment has been adapted to facilitate the needs of older, partially sighted people, to make these items easier to use.

    Through these technologies you can create playlists from music you and your loved one already own, and have up to 80 minutes of personalised recorded music.
  • Digital media: Using a digital media player (such as iTunes) enables you to purchase and add individual tracks to a playlist that’s as long as you want it to be. The tracks can then be recorded onto a CD, downloaded onto an MP3 device or played directly through a speaker.

Music streaming services (such as Spotify) use a subscription model that allows you to save as much music as you like over time. Playlists can be created in your own home and shared with your relative or their carer via the internet.

In both instances, it’s likely that your relative would need assistance to set the system up, but afterwards they can reap the benefits over and over again.

Selecting the songs

Think about the type of effect you want the playlist to have. A participatory playlist (to encourage dancing or singing) should feature upbeat tracks, with memorable choruses or rhythms.

A soothing, nostalgic playlist that engages the memory should feature:

  • Songs that they’ve expressed a passion for
  • Songs popular in their youth
  • Songs relating to major life events (such as a wedding or major birthday)
  • Songs relating to groups that they have been a part of (such as your family, community groups, the army, or their favourite sports team)

Example playlist for someone aged 80+

  1. ‘You Are My Sunshine’ – Jimmie Davis and Charles Mitchell
  2. ‘Over the Rainbow’ – Judy Garland
  3. ‘Moonlight Serenade’ – Glenn Miller
  4. ‘Memories are Made of This’ – Dean Martin
  5. ‘We’ll Meet Again’ – Vera Lynn
  6. ‘Lambeth Walk’ – Gracie Fields
  7. ‘Show Me the Way to Go Home’ – Frank Crumit
  8. ‘Keep Young and Beautiful’ – Abe Lyman
  9. ‘Ship Ahoy! (All the Nice Girls Love a Sailor)’ – Ella Retford
  10. ‘Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)’ – Doris Day

The Good Care Group uses specialist techniques to help your loved one maintain the best possible standard of living throughout their later years. Contact us to learn more about our practices.