Music to One’s Ears

March 16, 2018 | Lake Gibson Village

Studies have shown that when senior adults listen to music, it helps them in many ways

For many of us, we already know that music adds to our life — who hasn’t belted out a favorite song in the car and felt instantly happy? OK, maybe not everyone. But for most of us, music brings us joy. 

As Plato wrote: “It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” 

Music also has many benefits for senior adults, including: 

Studies on music and its relation to the elderly have demonstrated remarkable psychological benefits, such as: 

1) A happier outlook. According to an Arts in Aging Report from the National Endowment for the Arts, participating in arts programs like music has been shown to have a positive effect on mental health, physical health and social functioning in older adults. 

2) Increasing social interaction. A case study showed that participants who joined a choir reported that they felt a sense of purpose, fulfillment and personal growth. 

3) Improved sleeping. Music has a direct effect on the parasympathetic nervous system, which is what helps your body relax and prepare for sleep. A study showed that older adults who listened to 45 minutes of relaxing music before bedtime fell asleep faster, slept longer, and woke up less frequently during the night. 

4) Improved memory and recall. Music has been found to stimulate parts of the brain, and studies have demonstrated that music enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, including a study conducted at UC Irvine, which showed that scores on memory tests of Alzheimer’s patients improved when they listened to classical music. 

5) Increased mobility and coordination. According to Harvard Health, “one of every three senior citizens suffers at least one fall during the course of a year.” A 2011 study says it can help senior adults improve balance and mobility, and in turn, avoid falls. In the study, half the participants were in a program that trained them to walk and perform various movements in time to music, while the others did not participate. At the end of six months, the “dancers” had better mobility and balance than the non-dancers — and they also experienced 54 percent fewer falls. 

How can you add music to your life? Our first way is super easy: 

1) Listen to music. Research has shown that older people who listen to music experience positive emotions and increased relaxation.  

2) Join a choir. Studies suggest that group singing promotes social and personal well-being, encourage social participation, and reduces anxiety and depression. 

3) Play an instrument. Maybe you learned to play an instrument like the piano when you were a kid. And even if you didn’t, remember the old saying “you’re never too old to learn.” Various studies have shown that playing an instrument — whether alone or in a group — alleviates sadness, loneliness and depression.

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