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Study Creates the Ultimate Playlists for Your Loved Ones with Dementia

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For those living with dementia, uplifting music can be a powerful way to trigger positive feelings and reconnect with loved ones. 

With 900,000 people in the UK currently living with dementia, experts at Lottie analysed the musical attributes of 600 different songs in order to create a playlist which would be beneficial for anyone experiencing symptoms of dementia. 

The scoring of each song was specifically tailored depending on the audio attributes that would be appropriate for those with dementia. For example, songs with a higher value for danceability, energy and positivity achieved a higher score, whereas those with a higher loudness value were given a lower score. 

Dementia playlist for those aged 60–69 

Lottie found that the number one song for those aged between 60 –69 is, ‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ by Michael Jackson (7.90/10). Originally released in 1979, its upbeat nature (scoring 9.54/10 for danceability) may remind those living with dementia of happy memories, such as their first kiss, teenage years, family parties and loved ones. 

Following closely behind in the second position is ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, achieving an overall score of 7.85/10. This electronic track ranks second due to its repetitive nature which has the potential to evoke emotion and with it memories. 

Ranking in the third position is ‘Super Freak’ by Rick James (7.58/10). It has been found that stimulating music can inspire dance and movement for those living with dementia, encouraging physical exercise and excitement. Released in 1981, this punk-funk hit cemented Rick James as the king of funk ‘n’ roll. 

Dementia playlist for those aged 70–79 

‘Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough’ by Michael Jackson (7.98/10), ranks number one for the second time, for those with dementia aged 70-79. This track was popular in the charts for both of these age groups, therefore has the potential to spark memories among a vast age range. 

In second place is ‘In The Summertime’ by Mungo Jerry. Released in 1970, this track scored an overall score of 7.58/10. Within weeks of its release, this record became a global hit and transformed Ray Dorset (known as Mungo Jerry) into an international star. Such an upbeat tune may have the potential to evoke happy summer memories of the past. 

In the third position is ‘Le Freak’ by CHIC. Scoring a high danceability rating of 9.92/10 and a positivity rating of 8.04/10, it’s no surprise that this disco sensation scores a final score of 7.47/10. In joint third position is ‘Play That Funky Music’ by Wild Cherry (7.47/10). It can be useful to share images with loved ones whilst listening to such tracks to try to reminisce and share happy memories. 

Dementia playlist for those aged 80–89

Lottie found that ‘The Battle Of New Orleans’ by Johnny Horton (8.68/10) is the most appropriate song to ignite memories for those living with dementia among those aged 80 – 89. You can try to engage and connect with a loved one living with dementia by holding their hand or tapping to the rhythm whilst listening to this hopeful track. 

In the second position is another popular country track, ‘Summertime Blues’ by Eddie Cochran (7.99/10). This soothing country music song has the capability to evoke positive memories and boost brain function. 

Following closely behind in third is, ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry (7.61/10). Due to its popularity, this upbeat rock classic may have the potential to trigger pleasurable responses from those living with dementia, such as smiling or dancing, even when they may struggle to communicate their needs or express their emotions.

Upbeat songs have been proven to encourage physical exercise and act as a prompt for reminiscing happier times, whereas calmer songs have been proven to reduce stress among those living with dementia. Lottie has researched the qualities and benefits of both genres and has created a set of unique playlists for each genre and age group which can be viewed here.

Each playlist is age-specific for those who want to listen to music released in their own or a loved one’s younger years. If you would like to view a definitive playlist which covers all decades in which people typically would have been in their youth, click here

Will Donnelly, Care expert and co-founder of Lottie, tells us more about how you can use music to help a loved one living with dementia: ‘There are lots of health and wellbeing benefits to music – especially for those living with dementia. Listening and engaging with music can help someone living with dementia to communicate, stay connected to others and spark memories of joy and happiness.

‘Previous research has found that music can help reduce anxiety, maintain speech and express their emotions and enhance the overall well-being of someone living with dementia. Many care homes across the country provide music therapy – organised activities that involve music that both care home residents and carers enjoy.

‘The benefits of music can be seen both at home and in care settings. From listening to the radio with your loved one, enjoying their favourite songs together or even supporting your loved one to joining a social choir or singing group. There are lots of ways you can use music to support your loved one living with dementia.’

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