With so much research being conducted on the aging brain, it comes as no surprise to discover that music has a potent and positive impact on the lives of seniors. Along with improving memory, research has shown that listening to music leads to better general health. And it isn’t only mental prowess that’s improved by music but the overall quality of life for older adults everywhere.
Seniors who listen to music gain significant benefits like improved sleep, faster recovery times and less pain. But the benefits of music extend into all areas of a senior’s life. Activities such as listening to or making music, can color the way that older adults view their lives, adding to their perceptions of wellbeing.
Benefits of music
Multiple studies have shown that music is a magic ingredient with the power to enhance the quality of life for older people. The measurable benefits include:
- Less stress
- Enhanced memory
- Psychological benefits
- Better health
Music has the ability to stimulate the brain, enhance cognitive function, boost mobility and increase coordination. Exposure to music encourages movement and physical activity such as dancing. Older people also can participate in social occasions such as music events or group music lessons to alleviate loneliness and encourage interaction.
There are several ways that older adults can include music in their day-to-day lives. With technology, many genres of music are available to download and favorite tracks can be compiled into a personalized playlist for everyday listening.
Learning to play
One of the best ways to stay sharp in old age is to learn to play a musical instrument. While all musical involvement is beneficial, learning to play an instrument has been shown to build self-esteem and grow confidence.
What is surprising to discover is that musical training benefits not only the mind but the body as well. Playing music has the added therapeutic benefits for seniors of lowering blood pressure and slowing the heart rate. The good news is that it’s never too late to start learning an instrument.
Studies have shown that even at 60, 70 or 80 years old, seniors can achieve significant advantages from musical training and each type of instrument comes with its own unique benefits.
Learning to play the piano, guitar or violin boosts hand agility and coordination. The popular woodwind instruments such as the saxophone or clarinet also benefit breathing by increasing lung capacity. Playing an instrument develops fine motor skills while improving concentration and muscle memory.
Choosing an instrument
When purchasing an instrument, the new music student should consider the ones most suitable for first time users. Unlike a piano, smaller instruments are portable and easy to handle in class or when practicing. Two of the most well-liked are the clarinet and the saxophone.
The clarinet is a popular wind instrument for the beginner. When choosing one, care must be taken to ensure that the clarinet is well-balanced allowing the user to maintain good posture and hold it comfortably at the correct angle. The clarinet is also the lighter of these two instruments to hold.
The saxophone is another favorite wind instrument considered suitable for beginners and although there are three types – alto, tenor and baritone — the alto saxophone is the most suitable for those just starting out. An alto sax needs slightly less lung power and has a smaller key scale, which many find easier to use.
Both the clarinet and the saxophone have accessories – for example, neck straps — that allow the instrument to be adapted for the individual’s needs.
Music’s forte as a mood booster is undisputed and it helps seniors overcome stress, enrich social ties, and promote self-esteem. But it’s when older adults embrace music by learning to play an instrument that all the benefits of music are magnified.
Karen Weeks created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well.
Photo by Sandie Pollard on Unsplash.