Photo credit: Pexels
This wellness article was written by our dear friend, Hazel Bridges, of AgingWellness.org, especially for our Bridgeway family.
Music is a fantastic part of life that has numerous physical and mental benefits. If you’re a musician, you likely have a higher IQ due to how learning music affected your cognition. If you enjoy music you’re more likely to be in touch with your emotions – able to express yourself better when sad or happy. When your favorite song comes on and you get up and dance, you’re rewarded with physical activity that helps your body. All of these features of music are especially beneficial for seniors, who often neglect their emotional and physical wellness. Music can be a way to bring vitality back to a senior, engage them in community activity and maybe even fight back against cognitive problems, such as dementia.
Scientists and doctors have long touted music’s ability to manage stress, improve mood and foster social bonding. Music therapy is a component of holistic, complementary therapies that aim at relieving stress and making people feel better without medicine, but its neurological ability is well-founded. Studies have shown that musical training helps cognition, and listening to music affects how we think.
In one study, a group of musicians was tested against a group of nonmusicians. Both groups were given simple quizzes and while various types of music played in the background. Both groups listened to tonally appropriate songs as well as dissonant atonal music. Across the board, the musicians scored higher. When off-key music was played, the musicians’ scores dipped slightly lower, while the nonmusicians’ scores stayed the same. When polled after the quiz, a higher percentage of the musicians identified the off-key music where only 2 percent of the nonmusicians were even aware of it. This led scientists to theorize that the music played an important role in the musicians’ cognition.
These cognition theories have also been applied to Alzheimer’s and dementia patients. Since music is stored broadly across the brain, those experiencing certain dementia, such as the kind that affects the temporal lobe area of the brain, are less likely to forget about their favorite music. And this ability to recognize and recall music from the past helps people with dementia connect with memories that otherwise would be clouded. This is a helpful way for caregivers and patients to connect. A heartwarming anecdote involves an Alzheimer’s-afflicted parent snapping out of a foggy moment singing and engaged with their adult children caretakers once an old favorite song came on the radio.
And today’s technology makes it exceptionally easy to incorporate a vast amount of music into senior’s lives. Racks of tapes and shelves of records are now reduced to the easy interface of a digital media player. Even more accessible are a whole host of smart speakers, which have flooded the market. These speakers not only permit high-quality amplification of digital music, such as from an iPod, but also can operate independently as receivers for Internet radio and streaming services.
And if a senior has existing stereo equipment with which they are comfortable, there are numerous Bluetooth-transmitting accessories to facilitate connecting older equipment with modern speakers or even to cast the sound to a smartphone. Find more reviews on smart speakers and other products on FamilyLivingToday.
In addition to music appreciation, there are countless apps for musical instruction. Tablets facilitate simple keyboard learning, for example, without the need for an instrument. YouTube videos and music transcription apps also can open a world of musical education to any age.
Music is a path to enjoyment, mental agility, social health and physical fitness for seniors. Today’s music technology couldn’t be more intuitive or natural – and seniors are taking advantage of the fun and wellness that music brings.