Music & Memories

Voice of Lived Experience: Perspectives of people living with dementia & care partners.

This article was written by a guest contributor, and the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this article belong solely to the author.

Hello all, my name is Norrms Mc Namara and I am the founder of the Global Purple Angel dementia campaign and I live in the UK. Unfortunately, I also have dementia and was diagnosed with Lewy body’s type dementia a few years ago, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and created this campaign to try and make a difference for those with this disease like myself and their loved ones. I am based in Torquay, Devon, UK but as we always say at the Purple Angel - Dementia knows no barriers? So why should we?  And that’s why we operate globally, no matter where you live, no matter what colour, race or religion, dementia doesn’t care, BUT WE DO!!

What I am about to tell you is no secret to many and yet others don’t use this to help those with dementia, but I am hoping that once you read this, you will begin too, all across Canada.

I decided to take the bull by the horns and created this campaign to try and make a difference for those with this disease like myself

– Norrms Mc Namara

MUSIC lights up more parts of the brain than any other activity known to man/woman - FACT!!

What some don’t know is that the receptors in the brain that receives the signal every time music is played are never affected by dementia, and that’s why, even if you have dementia or not, you can remember where you where, who you were with, how old you were, when certain songs are played, usually your favourite songs.

So, what we did here at the Purple Angel campaign was to ask those with dementia what their very own top 15/20 songs are along with the artists that sang them or played them. This is so important as so many covers have been made of certain songs and not all are good, as I am sure you know. After doing a lot of fundraising we purchased brand new Mp3 players, and headphones and quite simply uploaded the chosen music onto them and posted them to the people who had sent in their order forms. All this was done free of charge, postage, packaging, the lot  - because of the fundraising we did and the results were nothing short of incredible.

Below is a very, very small part of feedback we get back on a daily basis regarding the MP3s and how they have helped, the results really have transformed some people with dementia lives, and all for the better. Even those in late stages have opened their eyes, moved, tapped their hands and feet and some have even got up and gone down asking where their lunch is??

Feedback as follows . . .

1. We have 2 residents who were at the end of life on palliative care  that have come back to life since the introduction of the MP3 players. What we saw was  residents speaking more, residents who never communicate verbally have been speaking. Residents have been putting on weight and have been much more alert. Staff have been so excited by the results they have asked us to request more MP3 players for other residents. Families who have seen the reaction of residents listening to the MP3 players have asked if we can get them for their relatives. I still cannot believe the change.

2. I would just like to say thank you for taking the time to put music on to an MP3 player for my mum who has lost the ability to speak. Her facial expressions say it all  - she smiles with her eyes and she still laughs and rolls her eyes, but it has been getting less.  She was picked to have one of the ipods you are doing and it has been so amazing we sit with her while she has the headphones on and you can see in her face how she is really enjoying the music and that it is sparking memories. She taps her foot to the beats and she looks and smiles she also starts to try and talk you can see it is making a difference. I love sitting there and holding her hand while she just listens she will look at me she is very tactile and the other day while listening she stroked my face which is so lovely as I miss my mum to talk to and to share with. Last week when it was just her and my dad she had the headphones on and one of the carers told me that she was sitting quietly listen holding my dad’s hand and she suddenly jumped so she thinks the song changed and she looked at my dad and gave him a big smile and the carer said it was such a lovely moment and it must of been a song that sparked a memory with my dad. So from the bottom of my heart I thank you I love the idea my mum always loved music and my dad and her loved to go dancing and jive, when I was little on a Sunday the record player was always playing country and western or rock and roll while they got the Sunday dinner ready together. It is a brilliant thing to do.

These are two emails from 1,000s we have received from grateful families and we here at the Purple Angel campaign would like to see the same happening in your wonderful country of Canada. Since we began we are now recognized in over 65 countries around the world and we also have over 1,200 Global purple Angel ambassadors including Canada so if you would like to become a Purple Angel dementia ambassador please contact us, or for more information about the MP3 scheme please see our website.

By the way, what is not that well known is each and every one of us at the Purple Angel, around the world are volunteers, we receive no pay for what we do and we do what we do because we are passionate and just want to make a difference -  hope you do too.

Best wishes,

Norrms Mc Namara


Norman Mc Namara was diagnosed with dementia at only 50 years of age. He is the  founder of the Global Purple Angels dementia campaign which distributes free MP3 players to people living with dementia. Learn more about his work at