A few days after Margaret Mackie, who suffers from dementia, moved into a Scottish care center, food server Jamie Lee Morley walked past the lounge one afternoon and heard a lovely refrain.
For a moment, he wondered if somebody had left the radio on. But then he spotted Mackie, 83, singing a pitch-perfect version of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
“I was stunned,” recalled Morley, 31. “I’ve loved singing and music since I was a little lad, and I could just tell that Margaret did, too. Her voice is amazing.”
Morley, who has worked at the Northcare Suites Care Home in Edinburgh since it opened last fall, began singing regular duets with Mackie in the dining room and hallways. A video of one of their songs has been viewed thousands of times since it was posted online last month.
The video features the pair singing Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” which brought them a standing ovation at the care center when they performed it at the residents’ latest Christmas party.
After the video of their duet was posted, Morley and Mackie also recorded a single of “My Way,” which is lighting up the pop charts in the United Kingdom and beyond, with proceeds benefiting the Alzheimer’s Society and Dementia U.K. The track is No. 6 on the U.K.’s Amazon download chart and at one point reached No. 27 on iTunes’ Top 40 in the U.K., above stars such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, and Ed Sheeran.
“We’ve been blown away by the incredible response,” said Morley, a part-time singer who decided to sing “My Way” with Mackie in honor of his grandfather, who died of complications from Alzheimer’s in 2018. The song also was played at his funeral.
“Overnight, things took off and just kept going,” he said. “I’ve had people reach out from all over the world to say that the video has touched them.”
Mackie, a former whiskey distillery worker who has advanced dementia and rarely remembers one day from the next, moved to the nursing home last October from another care center, according to Jordan Simpson, manager of Northcare Suites. Although she doesn’t always remember Morley and other caregivers, she never forgets the words to her favorite songs, Simpson said.
“Singing is something that makes Margaret happy. She has a great singing voice,” he said. “And although she has dementia, she has a great memory for song lyrics. She and Jamie sing together most of the day.”
Morley, a former barista, said he looks forward to strolling the halls with Mackie to delight other residents with classics by Elvis and Sinatra.
“Margaret is one in a million. She always has the biggest smile on her face and doesn’t let anything dampen her day,” he said. “She’s an inspiration to anyone who meets her, especially me.”
He said his love for the elderly has grown since he began serving meals last year at the care center.
“Just seeing the strength they have to get up and carry on with their day, no matter what stands in the way, blows me away,” he said. “With Margaret, her personality shines every day. She has an amazing character about her and loves to dress up and have her hair and makeup done. I believe that music takes her back to her happy place.”
Their performance at the Christmas party last month was unplanned and unrehearsed, Morley said, but when 40 residents and guests gave them a standing ovation, he realized they might be on to something.
Regardless of how far their “My Way” single climbs on the pop charts, the biggest benefit is the therapy that Mackie receives from singing, he said.