Music from Scottish folk group helps dementia patients in Dundee ‘unlock memories’

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The music of one of Scotland’s top folk groups is helping to release memories for people with dementia in Tayside.

The songs of the Doolichters of Dundee take elderly patients back to their roots and remind them of times past.

Now, as the lockdown rules finally ease, the band which has a collective age of 343 hope to perform live at residences and care centers in the area to help as many people as possible.

And after a flurry of local publicity at the end of last year, they want to see if their music will be picked up by bands elsewhere in Scotland and the UK.

The five-piece band produce self-penned music which was assessed and subsequently adopted last December by NHS Tayside.

It is now used as a formal memory-boosting therapy to be included in individual care plans for people with dementia.

Music, songs and videos are written and produced by the band and focus on the culture and history of Dundee from the 50s, 60s and 70s.

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The occasionally hilarious songs include lines using the local vernacular such as: “Charisma, charm a bunch of dough, ’cause he draped the puggie at the Black Watch Clubbie, that’s the Stobie Valentino.”

And based on the feedback they have received from experts, the therapy model can easily be localized and adapted to suit dementia patients from all parts of Scotland and the rest of the UK.

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Band member Ian Kennedy said he was delighted to be involved with the project, led by NHS Tayside senior occupational therapist Donna Macintosh.

He told Dundee Live: “You would be forgiven for thinking that in March 2020 the music stopped, but it opened a door for us.

“As the world slowed down, a group of old guys had the chance to catch up. It was our cue to start writing and recording songs.

“We had to learn new skills to exchange music on the net, share videos and overcome our naivety about all things digital.



After a flurry of local publicity late last year, the Doolichters want to see if their music will be picked up by dementia support groups elsewhere in Scotland and the UK.

“It was therapeutic for us so it was probably only natural for others to find it too, although we never saw Donna’s initiative coming.

“As Donna’s work is aimed at patients our age who have shared our experiences, it’s a natural fit.”

Donna said the music had amazing results.

She told us: “Once I heard the music of the Doolichters, I immediately felt it had the potential to help my patient group. I was grateful that they kindly agreed to work with me, and our patients, to develop and use videos and CDs featuring their music.

“The goal was to develop a sensory reminiscence project, which would improve patient care and create meaningful person-centered activity.



Occupational therapist Donna Macintosh said the results were amazing.

“Animators, fellow occupational therapists and myself came together to create sensory boxes for each song, which contain elements to stimulate all five senses.

“The project allowed us to gather feedback from our patients on topics that we might not otherwise have discussed. This resulted in increased participation, laughter and spontaneous communication, all of which improve the quality of life of our patients.

“It was clear that during the time they were with us, activities with these materials improved their cognition and mood.

“A lot of patients remembered the session because it made an emotional memory and they asked for the next session.

“It was also nice to see each patient spark another memory for someone else or start a dialogue on a related topic.

“The project is a work in progress and we are adding materials all the time and hope to finalize our boxes by spring.”

-You can see two more Doolichters songs here and here.

For more information about the group and their work with the NHS, visit their Facebook page here.

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