January 23, 2018

We have all experienced music’s ability to bring cheer, evoke memories of the past, and provide comfort. For years, people have benefitted from music therapy, which uses musical interventions to address physical, cognitive, and emotional issues in people of all ages.

In many retirement communities, music therapy programs are offered to help older adults deal with age-related problems such as general stress, depression, chronic pain, and even memory impairment. Here’s a closer look at some of the top benefits of music therapy for seniors.

Stress reduction

While small amounts of stress are a normal part of everyday life, some older adults experience overwhelming stress and tension. Listening to music has been found to help people deal with stress and anxiety by slowing high heart rates and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol. In music therapy programs, therapists may use songs with certain rhythms, themes, or lyrics to help people relax and reduce stress.

Improve speech and cognitive skills

Music therapy is often used in memory care treatment to slow the decline of speech skills in dementia patients. In some instances, music therapy can inspire individuals who are nonverbal to communicate by singing or humming. Music therapy may also improve cognitive ability in older adults. In a Stanford University study on the effects of music therapy on older adults, researchers found that rhythmic music stimulates certain areas of the brain to increases blood flow and improved seniors’ performance on cognitive tests.

Increase social activity

Music is known to bring people together. In music therapy programs, older adults are encouraged to communicate and connect with other members of their group, often making new friends in the process. The social aspect of music therapy helps seniors alleviate feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Inspire movement

Playing music can motivate older adults to get moving, whether it’s by dancing, clapping, or even tapping their toes. Many music therapy programs use drums or tambourines to encourage seniors to participate and make their own music.

In addition to providing music therapy programs for residents, some retirement communities also host live musicians or plan excursions to local concerts and performances. Whether it’s by listening to therapeutic music, playing an instrument, or singing along to a favorite tune, participating in music therapy can have profound effects on older adults’ mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing.

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