Campaign to Make Music Free For People With Dementia Launched in UK

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Courtesy of Music for Dementia
Lauren Laverne

The initiative's leader, BBC Radio's Lauren Lavern, has called on Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services to offer free subscriptions to dementia patients.

A campaign to make music freely accessible on streaming services for people living with dementia has been launched in the U.K.

Research has shown that listening to music can significantly minimize some of the symptoms of dementia, such as agitation, as well as reducing anxiety and depression.

Music has also proven effective in helping some patients retain their speech and language skills for much longer, and provide people in the advanced stages of the disease with alternative ways of communicating. 

According to the Alzheimer's Society, there are currently 850,000 people living with dementia in the U.K., with numbers set to rise to over 1 million by 2025. Although the majority of people with dementia are aged over 65, there are more than 40,000 people under 65 with symptoms of dementia in the U.K. 

Worldwide, there are an estimated 46 million people living with dementia -- a number than is expected to double every 20 years, rising to more than 115 million by 2050.

"A song has the power to instantly transport us to a different place and time, and can have the most profound effect on people living with dementia and their carers," says Grace Meadows, senior music therapist at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital and program director at Music for Dementia 2020, which is campaigning to make music accessible to everyone in the U.K. living with dementia by 2020. 

"We all instinctively know how important music is, and how beneficial it is for our wellbeing. It connects us to others, to our memories and boosts our mood," adds BBC DJ Lauren Laverne, newly-appointed ambassador for the initiative. Funding comes from charitable trust The Utley Foundation and Health Secretary Matt Hancock has backed the campaign. 

Laverne's first act as ambassador is to call for streaming services like Spotify, Apple and Deezer to offer free subscriptions for anyone living with dementia or their carers.  

"This is a generation who paid their music taxes by buying records and CDs and made the music industry what it is today. We'd love to see streaming services make music free for everyone living with dementia," said the DJ in a statement. Deezer declined to comment when contacted by Billboard. Apple and Spotify didn't return requests to comment. 

"We're thrilled to have Lauren Laverne on board as an ambassador, who brings vast experience from the music industry," said Utley Foundation founder and trustee Neil Utley.

"I know that she will be hugely influential in helping to spread the message about the impact music can have on the quality of life for people living with dementia." 

Baroness Sally Greengross, chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, which led a sector-wide commission into music and dementia last year, said that despite growing evidence of how beneficial music can be for people with dementia, not enough was being done to improve access.

"One of the key recommendations from the commission was to improve public awareness around the power of music," said Greengross. "We hope that through this partnership, Lauren Laverne and Music for Dementia 2020 will shine a light on the value of music as an intervention."