How Music Can Benefit Seniors

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Whether you are grooving to Louis Armstrong, rocking out to “Come Together” by the Beatles, or reading with Chopin in the background, music has the unique ability to pump us up or calm us down.

The transformative power of music cannot be denied.  It can soothe the broken-hearted, motivate exercisers, and kickoff celebrations. It also has some serious scientifically proven benefits to our health and wellbeing.

“I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

–  Billy Joel

Music Keeps Your Brain Young

“They just don’t make music like they used to.”  We’ve all heard it… and we may even have said it.

By the time we turn 33, most of us have stopped listening to new music. Meanwhile, popular songs released in our early teens are likely to remain favourites for the rest of our lives. You may want to rethink things.  Experts suggest listening to what your kids or grandkids love.

While listening to music that you know and like tends to cause the strongest response and dopamine release, unfamiliar melodies may stimulate your brain, keeping it young.

That’s because new music challenges the mind in a way that old music doesn’t. The unfamiliar beats force the brain to process the new sound, which creates new neural pathways. The pathways get stronger with repetition until the behavior – or sound – is the new normal.

Another reason to listen to new music?  It may prove to be a source of pleasure as you get used to hearing it. At the very least, it will give you a valuable springboard to help connect you with the younger generation.

Music Improves Memory

Favorite songs tickle our memory in various ways; if you’ve ever gotten a song stuck in your head, you might have an idea of how easily music gets ingrained in our memory.

Similarly, some songs remind us of certain periods or events in our lives – some that make us smile, and some we would rather forget. For example, every time “The Stroll” by The Diamonds plays, you might be reminded of that big date at the dancehall.

Lady pointing.Daniel Levitin, the author of This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession, notes that the music of our teenage years is fundamentally intertwined with our social lives and therefore holds power over our memories.

A robust line of research shows that there is something deeply meaningful about this period in our lives. It plays an immense role in how we structure our expectations, personal stories, and memories. The basic finding is this: The nostalgia that accompanies our favorite songs isn’t just a fleeting recollection of earlier times; it literally brings us back to the years when our brains leapt with joy at the music that formed the bedrock of our youth.

No matter what our age, music remains an escape hatch from our adult brains back to the passion of our youths. And, since musical memories are one of the last things affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, caregivers in memory care homes and Day Programs can use it to help give seniors a “cognitive boost”, potentially slowing the progression of cognitive decline.

Music Benefits Mental Health

We can all think of at least one song that, when we hear it, triggers an emotional response.

Given the deep connection we have with music, it is unsurprising that numerous studies have shown it can benefit our mental health. A 2011 study by researchers from McGill University in Montreal found that listening to music increases the amount of dopamine produced in the brain – a mood-enhancing chemical – making it a possible treatment for depression.

Music Increases Communication

In many cases, music opens avenues of communication that otherwise may be unavailable. Listening to music on a regular basis can enhance communication for older adults by improving cognition and language abilities.

Music-related activities in retirement living — including dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, listening to music and watching musical performances — can spark discussions that improve connections with friends, family members, and caregivers.

Music Helps Keep Seniors Active

Music can be highly motivating during any type of exercise, including walking, cycling, and working out with weights. The right music can encourage seniors to get more physical activity, which can help maintain independence and restore function lost due to injuries or illnesses.

Older adults of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from an increase in movement, which helps improve muscle strength, flexibility, heart health, bone density, and balance.

By choosing appropriate music for physical activities, our supportive living professionals help seniors increase activity at a safe pace.

Get Your Toes-Tapping!

It is easier than ever to bring music into a senior’s life. Here are several music activities for seniors to try out:

  • Lady by pianoCreate a personalized playlist. Not only has technology made media available at the tip of our fingers, but music is also more readily available than ever. With the internet, you can find any song, from any era.
  • Attend a live concert. Many communities offer monthly concerts, especially outdoor shows during the summer months. Even though the pandemic has resulted in modifications to events, at All Seniors Care retirement living communities, music is a year-round affair! Ask your recreation coordinator for a schedule of upcoming events.
  • Play an instrument you once played. Hobbies, like playing music, can help increase self-esteem and is therapeutic for seniors. Playing an instrument is also brain protective! See how our St. Albert Retirement Residence is using music here.
  • Have a sing-along to a song such as “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Sing-a-longs can also help promote a sense of community and allow people to interact while singing aloud.

 

At All Seniors Care

Our independent and assisted living communities make music a focal point, with a special emphasis on well-known tunes that forge connections to pivotal events and evoke connections to long-ago memories.

If you’re looking for a retirement residence, always explore the social and artistic activities available. Research your senior housing options in AlbertaManitobaOntarioSaskatchewan, and Quebec to find the right senior housing option for you.

If you want to find out more about how our music activities enrich the lives of seniors, give us a call or schedule a visit.

Editor and Writer:   Julianna McLeod

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