by Karen Weeks
Music is a practical and powerful panacea for people of all ages, but especially young children and seniors—and for many of the same reasons. Music has a profound effect on seniors’ mental and physical health and overall happiness, proving you’re never too old to make music. Just like music helps to mold and shape a young child’s mind, seniors can also find their capacity for memory and physical dexterity expanding when they pick up an instrument.
If you are looking for a way to relieve stress and improve cognition, look no further. Below are six benefits older adults can enjoy with music and some ways to incorporate them into your daily life.
Remember memories and make associations
Music has the singular ability to evoke memories and emotions long forgotten—especially important for seniors dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Studies have shown that songs from a person’s teens and 20s tend to elicit the most enlivened response. For adults in more advanced stages of dementia, learning childhood songs on a simple instrument like a drum or recorder may be a more effective technique.
Increases tech comfort and knowledge
Many instruments require some kind of technology in order to learn. With more and more people learning online, you may find virtual lessons useful. If your laptop or tablet isn’t running smoothly, you may need an upgrade. Fortunately, you can find some generous discounts and deals if you explore your options online. Certain instruments will also require different kinds of tech, like guitar tuners or a metronome.
Enjoy better sleep and less pain
Research has shown that seniors who listen to music often have better nights of sleep, diminished pain, and improved mobility and coordination. One interesting study found that seniors who listened to music following a stroke regained their verbal skills more quickly. In addition to that, music often leads to movement, so seniors who regularly dance experience joint lubrication, muscle stretching, and a cardio boost.
Experience life with less stress
Playing music and learning an instrument can lead to a reduction in stress for many seniors. Some say that music becomes meditative, almost like prayer, even when learning new instruments. Even just listening to music during your regular daily activities — like getting dressed, cleaning, or walking the dog — can reduce stress and anxiety, which, in turn, reduces blood pressure and improves circulation.
Make new and stronger friendships
Music brings people together, even in times when we cannot be physically close to one another. With music lessons, older adults can study with other seniors and are encouraged to support and connect with each other. The social aspect of learning to play music helps seniors manage feelings of loneliness and isolation, even when those interactions occur virtually. If you already know an instrument, practicing with other seniors can be a lot of fun, whether you form an official band or ensemble or just gather to jam.
If you want to play with others in person, it’s a good idea to set up a dedicated space for your musical sessions, especially if you’ll be using large pieces of equipment or live with other people. For example, if you have an unfinished basement, you could make some improvements to it so it’s a suitable space to practice with friends. As a bonus, even if you only focus on budget-friendly modifications, like adding a drop ceiling or installing paneling to the walls (or even just painting them), you’ll boost your home’s appraisal value in the event you ever sell it.
Encourage exercise and movement
Music is a strong motivator during exercises like walking, dancing, stretching, cycling, and strength training. With the right music, seniors can actually get more out of their physical activity. Seniors of any and all fitness levels benefit from any activity that helps improve muscle strength, flexibility, heart health, bone density, and balance. Music gets you moving.
For seniors, music delivers even more benefits for physical and mental health, memory, and social interactions. Its effects may differ from person to person and across age groups, but there’s no denying its power in everyone.
Karen Weeks is a Senior Lifestyle blogger. After retirement, she struggled to find a new sense of purpose which led her to learn a new skill and took a computer course. She created elderwellness.net – a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies and spirits well.