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Three Scientifically Proven Ways Music Improves The Lives of Older Adults

There is no denying the power of music. Across cultural and societal lines, music has been proven to bring people together. A recent study from the Tokyo University of Arts went so far as to claim this was why music was first developed: to create communities and societies. As we age, music plays an important role in our quality of life.

Playing and listening to music can have tremendously positive effects on seniors, both physically and emotionally. According to studies detailed by Music Education Research International, “Active music participation holds numerous benefits for senior citizens,” from mental and physical health, to overall happiness.

Below are some of the many benefits music can have on older adults.

1. Memory Enhancement

Throughout life, music often finds itself tied to unique memories. A time in your past may be defined by one particular song or style of music. This is no different for seniors; music can have a huge impact on mental health.

A study published in the Oxford University Journal, Cerebral Cortex, found that memory can be improved by listening to music. Music can force a kind of automatic recall, bringing what may have been considered a previously lost memory back to the surface, while also exercising a person’s day-to-day short term memory. For seniors with dementia, this is a hugely powerful tool.

In the video below, a man suffering from dementia who rarely speaks or moves suddenly comes alive when presented with music from his past.

2. Improvements in Overall Health

While music is proven to help with memory, active participation in music has shown to have many other health benefits for seniors, including:

  • Pain and stress relief, which can lead to a reduced need for medicine and an overall healthier life.

  • Stroke recovery, where listening to music helps increase verbal memory while also reducing the risk of recovery slowing depression.

  • Blood pressure and heart health improvement as a result of listening to classical music.

  • Boosting immune system health, affording seniors the ability to better ward off diseases.

3. Greater Happiness

Engaging with a community via music has immense benefits on people of all ages, but especially so with older adults. Living an active lifestyle is key to slowing the effects of aging, and participation in music helps shape this lifestyle.

The National Institute on Aging recommends seniors learn something new, including playing an instrument, to achieve a more active lifestyle. The institute makes note of how aging can sometimes lead to isolation, which in turn raises the risks of seniors falling into depression. Playing an instrument and learning from others, however, can encourage group socialization, which dramatically reduces these risks.

According to Music Education Research International, “Through music participation, senior citizens are able to (a) increase self-understanding, (b) achieve success as learners, (c) participate in experiences that are rewarding and interesting, and (d) express themselves creatively. These elements have been shown to enhance the quality of life of older adults.”

What this all adds up to is a greater level of happiness for seniors, which only increases mental and physical health. A little music can go a long way.

Chesapeake Cottage Assisted Living incorporates music daily, but a the resident's favorite is having Jay Rock come and perform! Covid-19 isn't preventing us from enjoying some tunes outdoors and some iced tea to top it off.

Thank you Chicago Methodist Senior Services for the informational article!

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