We know that music brings great joy to many people with dementia, so we were delighted to hear that one of the people currently enjoying our new Unforgettable music player is TV legend Barbara Windsor

She’s entertained millions of people in a career spanning an incredible seven decades. But while she might be best known for her roles in Carry On films, and more recently as pub landlady Peggy Mitchell in EastEnders, Dame Barbara Windsor, 81, is also a gifted songstress with a beautiful singing voice.

So, it’s not surprising that Barbara, who’s living with dementia, is now finding great pleasure from music. Her husband Scott told Unforgettable that Barbara responds extremely well to music therapy and “really loves” a very special personal playlist we created for her with songs from her career. “She connects with it,” he said simply.

Scott also told the Sun newspaper last week that Barbara loves her “very special radio” – the Unforgettable Music Player and Digital Radio.

Barbara’s personal playlist includes many of her hit songs, such as Sparrows Can’t Sing (which was the theme tune to a major film of the same name for which she also received a BAFTA Award nomination) and songs from her 1999 album You’ve Got A Friend, in which she performed duets with Joe Longthorne, Steve McFadden and Mike Reid. There are also lots of famous songs she sang in film and West End musicals such as Guys and Dolls and Oh What a Lovely War.

Of course, it’s easy to create a playlist for someone like Barbara who’s had such a glittering musical career – she first appeared on the West End stage at the age of 13 in the musical Love From Judy and was still singing and dancing in musicals and pantomimes 50 years later!

But the person you love doesn’t need to have been a star of stage and screen for them to gain great enjoyment from a personal playlist.

The fact that music can be a ‘lifeline’ for many people with dementia is already well known. A couple of months ago, Health Secretary Matt Hancock described it as an “indispensable too” to help families cope with dementia. He even suggested that doctors should be prescribing musical activities such as personal playlists because, “it can lead to the same or better outcomes for patients without popping pills. And it saves the NHS money.”

He also praised our friends at the charity Playlist for Life, which was founded by BBC broadcaster Sally Magnusson to share the power of personal playlists.

Playlist for Life provides tools and training to help families create unique personal playlists. He said: “I must pay tribute to the pioneering work of the charity Playlist for Life. Their work creating personal playlists for people with dementia led to a 60 per cent reduction in the need for psychotropic medication in one care home.”


3 steps to creating a personal playlist

1. Start by choosing songs or music that the person you love would have listened to when they were aged 10-30. Music from these years tends to remain most vivid of all.

2. Include music they might associate with important people in their lives – a track they danced to on their wedding day, a song their mother used to sing to them etc.

3. Also select songs associated to where they are from, including local dialects and languages. For Barbara Windsor this might mean cockney songs from Fings Aint Wot They Used T’Be, for your loved one it might be church music or songs in a language they grew up speaking.