Playlist for Life was founded in 2013 by GCU honorary graduate Dr Sally Magnusson, who was inspired to set up the charity after observing the effect of personalised music on her mother, who lived with dementia. The charity’s core work is to encourage families and other caregivers to offer people with the condition a playlist of music that has been meaningful to them during their life.

Working with the charity, GCU researchers Dr Gianna Cassidy and Dr Helen Mason, assisted by PhD student Anna Paisley, have developed a beta version of a music app, through which playlists can be compiled on tablet and mobile devices. The app will be rolled out for a 10-week trial.

Dr Cassidy and Dr Mason were awarded £60,000 from the Edinburgh and Lothians Health Foundation to identify the needs of patients and their carers in order to design and trial the app, with additional funding from Playlist for Life, Nesta, and Alzheimer Scotland.

The app uses music-streaming service Spotify and is made for iOS, with an Android version also planned. Through the app, users answer simple questions about music in their life to create a playlist of meaningful music, then organise this playlist based on how it makes them feel and when they might want to listen to it. The app is evidence-based and has been developed in consultation with people with dementia.

Dr Cassidy, Senior Lecturer in Computer, Communications and Interactive Systems at GCU, said: “We believe the Playlist for Life app could be a powerful tool for improving dementia care and wellbeing, helping those with dementia and their supporters create a musical identity that connects them, exploring the past, experiencing the present, and planning for the future.”

As part of this project, GCU was approached by innovation charity Nesta to appropriate a research prototype of the app as one of two launch concepts for its Citizens Science platform, which aims to harness digital technology to help researchers understand and address key issues in care.

Dr Cassidy said: “We are asking people living with dementia − and their families and carers − to take part in the beta trial by signing up to Dementia Citizens and using the app for 10 weeks. Measures of how and why the app was used will be gathered to shed light on its impact. The beta will explore the benefits of using the app on social, emotional and cognitive measures of wellbeing for those with dementia and their carers.

“As well as deepening our understanding and raising awareness of the power of music for wellbeing in dementia, we aim to inform optimal future design and research of digital technologies as a vehicle for delivering such beneficial activities in dementia care.”

People living with dementia and their carers, who want to use the app, can sign up at



Glasgow Caledonian University