By Charles Carpenter
People of all ages enjoy listening to music. It has the power to change your emotions and help you recall meaningful moments in your life. Most importantly, music has cognitive and physical benefits that especially help older people. That’s all the more reason why seniors should incorporate music into their daily life.
Music Positively Impacts Brain Processing Speed and Memory
Seniors know staying physically and mentally active translates to good quality of life. Recent research shows that music should be a part of your daily routine to boost your cognitive abilities. Even seniors who are not musicians benefit from listening to music. Specifically, researchers found that the processing speed performance in seniors is faster while listening to classical music in the background, episodic memory performance is better when listening to music, and semantic memory improves while listening to music. Try listening to music while you cook, clean, relax, and drive to improve your cognition.
Similarly, the NAMM Foundation points out that studies have found that music stimulates parts of the brain and enhances the memory of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia patients. If you recently received an Alzheimer’s diagnosis (or if you’re preparing your home to live with a loved one who has), setting up a space to listen to or play music can offer tremendous benefits. In fact, adults between the ages of 60 and 85 who had no previous musical experience had improved processing speed and memory after three months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons and three hours of practice each week. Other studies show that music experience delivers cognitive benefits throughout a person’s lifespan to the point of being able to counteract the effects of aging, including memory and hearing difficulties.
Music Positively Impacts Mental and Physical Health
Playing music reduces stress and can reverse your response to stress down to your DNA level. In fact, playing music significantly lowers your heart rate and helps calm and regulate the blood pressure and respiration rates of patients. Some studies also show that playing music reverses the hormonal stress response and increases natural killer cell activity, which boosts the immune system.
How does playing an instrument relieve stress? When you play music, you are more mindful; as a result, you are present in the current moment and not distracted by worries. Playing an instrument also keeps your hands and mind busy, which gives you a mental break from stress. Other studies show that seniors who make music relieve anxiety, loneliness, and stress and stimulate the immune system while improving their overall health.
Moreover, seniors who have dexterity issues find that playing an instrument boosts their fine motor skills. While many people focus on how making music improves kids’ hand-eye coordination, it’s important to note that seniors who play instruments also benefit in this way. Fine motor skills are required to play most instruments, from the violin and viola to woodwinds like the clarinet and saxophone.
Music Helps You Stay Social and Active
If you’re looking for a way to incorporate music into your daily life and reap the cognitive and physical benefits of doing so, you should learn to play an instrument. You’re never too old to learn to play an instrument; in fact, there is a growing trend among seniors to take up an instrument. Because of the boom in senior musicians, senior centers, churches, and other social organizations increasingly have requests for music lessons and space for seniors to practice playing together. Overall, seniors stay social and active by finding new friends who share their love of music.
When you decide to learn to play, you can take online lessons, hire a private music teacher, or reach out to a local school or college to see if anyone provides music lessons. Many seniors gravitate toward woodwind instruments like the clarinet and saxophone because they are lightweight, easy to transport, and fairly inexpensive to purchase.
There are numerous reasons for seniors to incorporate music into their daily lives. You will improve your cognitive and physical abilities and improve your physical and mental health if you listen to and play music. You’ll also become more social when you learn to play an instrument.