top of page
  • Jada Poku

Burns' Night: How the Work of a Scottish Poet is shaping dementia care

Burns Night, usually on 25th January, the anniversary of Robert Burns' birth in 1759, is a celebration of the life and works of the Scottish poet, widely regarded as one of the greatest in the English language. It's traditionally marked with a Burns Supper, a formal dinner that includes reciting Burns' poetry, singing his songs, and drinking Scotch whisky.


One exciting aspect of Burns Night is how Burns' poetry is being used to treat dementia. Dementia is a term that describes a decline in cognitive function, including memory, language, and problem-solving abilities. It is often associated with ageing but can also be caused by various other factors, such as head injury, brain disease, or drug abuse.




One study conducted at the University of Glasgow found that dementia patients who participated in a program that involved reading, reciting, and discussing Burns' poetry showed significant improvements in their cognitive function and quality of life.


Burns' poetry is rich in sensory imagery and evocative language, which, as researchers believe, can help to stimulate the brain and engage the senses. This is particularly important for people with dementia, who may experience a loss of sensory function and a decline in their ability to process and understand language.


In addition to its cognitive benefits, Burns' poetry is also thought to have a therapeutic effect on dementia patients. Many of his poems deal with themes of love, loss, and nostalgia, which can be particularly poignant for people with dementia, who may struggle with identity issues and memory loss.


Poetry has long been recognised for its ability to engage the mind and stimulate the senses. It has been used in various therapeutic settings to help people with different cognitive and emotional issues. However, the use of Burns' poetry has a unique cultural significance in Scotland, where he is an important national figure. This has led to the development of several Burns-themed programs and initiatives that use his poetry to treat dementia and other cognitive disorders.


Burns Memory Clinic


Established at the University of Glasgow in 2015, the clinic uses a combination of cognitive and sensory stimulation techniques, including the use of Burns' poetry, to help people with dementia improve their cognitive function and quality of life. It has been successful in helping many people with dementia and has received widespread acclaim for its innovative approach to treatment. It has also been the subject of numerous research studies, which have provided valuable insights into the effectiveness of using Burns' poetry as a therapeutic tool.


Other Burns-themed Initiatives


In addition to the Burns Memory Clinic, several other Burns-themed initiatives use his poetry to help people with dementia. These include the Burns 2gether program, developed by the Alzheimer Scotland charity, and the Burns for the Brain program, developed by the Scottish Dementia Working Group. Both programs use Burns' poetry to engage the mind and stimulate the senses. They have been successful in helping people with dementia improve their cognitive function and quality of life.



In conclusion, Burns Night is an important cultural event that celebrates the life and works of the Scottish poet Robert Burns. It is also a reminder of the therapeutic power of poetry, specifically Burns's works, in treating dementia. Through programs like the Burns Memory Clinic and Burns 2gether, Burns' poetry is used to help people with dementia improve their cognitive function and quality of life.



9 views0 comments
bottom of page