FOR Cathy and Sean Forde, music has always been a big part of their life together.

From the albums they enjoyed to the gigs they went to together, the couple, who are from Glasgow’s west end, love everything from Bob Dylan to Lady Gaga.

Now that Sean has dementia, music has become even more important.

Glasgow Times: Cathy and Sean Forde

“As soon as Sean’s headphones go on, he starts to sing,” says Cathy. “It’s unusual to see him in that state of joy now.”

Sean, who is 60, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s four years ago. An optician who ran his own business, he had started showing signs at the age of 50 and recently, his condition has deteriorated.

Getting involved with Playlist for Life, the charity founded by former Glasgow Times Scotswoman of the Year, broadcaster and author Sally Magnusson, has helped the couple cope.

Glasgow Times:

Playlist for Life encourages people to make personal playlists of music important to them, based on more than two decades of scientific research showing that it can improve the lives of those living with dementia. Throughout World Alzheimer’s Month, which comes to a close today, the charity has been focussing on the people ‘beyond’ the dementia diagnosis, the power of music to let individuality shine through.

“Sean never engaged in anything to do with dementia,” explains Cathy.

“Our wonderful Alzheimer’s Link Worker recommended him for the Playlist for Life Request Service and I was sceptical he would participate.

“We had three sessions and we ended up with three or four great big playlists, which have actually transformed Sean’s experience for listening to music and having his music with him when he’s exercising and going for a run.”

In the course of making the playlists, Cathy explains, the couple started to talk about favourite gigs and albums going back decades.

“Sean started to remember more and more about songs he’d liked and the artists,” she says. “I got in touch with one of Sean’s old friends and asked him what songs he could remember from when they were teenagers in Millport, and he gave us another big load of suggestions.

“What was wonderful is it’s made us go through all these memories together – it got us talking and laughing and we included our family, asking our sons if there were any songs they remember listening to with their dad.”

Cathy adds: “Whenever we’re asked to do anything that’s connected to Sean’s Alzheimer’s, it’s always a bit depressing. There is never anything really positive about it. But Playlist for Life encouraged us to talk right back through our lives and we had a good laugh about it and we don’t have a lot of laughs nowadays.

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“It’s not so much a nostalgia, it’s more about the vibrancy of all the experiences that we have had. We’ve been able to remember them and rekindle the excitement of them and it’s brilliant that both of us still remember stand out gigs with the same level of excitement.”

She adds: “A few months on from the experience and the playlist is still the one and only shining star in Sean’s Alzheimer’s existence for sure.”