There is power in music. It can make us dance, smile, or cry. It has a way of connecting us to the people and events around us, like a soundtrack to our lives. Research shows that both listening to and making music are also powerful medicines. This is particularly true for older adults battling various illnesses. Music stimulates certain parts of the brain, and studies demonstrate that music can even enhance the memory of dementia and Alzheimer’s patients. Even better, any musical activity, listening or making, can influence older adults’ perceptions about their lives in general.
It’s rather simple. Music holds the power to increase dopamine levels (those happy hormones) and decrease symptoms of depression and pain. It plays an important role at every age, but the benefits of music are astonishing for older adults. In studies, adults aged 60 to 85 with no previous musical experience showed improved processing speed and memory after just three months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons and three hours a week of practice. The control group showed no changes.
There’s no disputing that there are many benefits to enjoying music in any way at any age. Here are just a few:
Benefits of Music
Playing an instrument keeps your ears young
It was discovered that older musicians don’t experience the usual type of aging in the part of the brain (the auditory cortex) that often leads to hearing troubles. These findings come in spite of the fact that musicians spend a good deal of time around music played at a high volume.
Music reduces stress
Not only does playing and listening to music reduce stress, but it has also been shown to reverse the body’s response to stress at the DNA level. Loma Linda University School of Medicine and Applied Biosystems reports that playing a musical instrument can reverse stress at the molecular level. Playing the drums has benefits as well. Blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal of the hormonal stress response and increased natural killer cell activity.
Music combats depression
A study was conducted by Stanford University School of Medicine with 30 people over 80 years of age experiencing depression. They found that those who participated in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed, and had higher self-esteem.
Music retrains the brain
Rhythmic cues help retrain the brain after a stroke or other neurological impairment, according to Colorado State University’s Center of Biomedical Research in Music. Research has also discovered that hearing slow, steady rhythms, such as drumbeats, helps Parkinson’s patients move more steadily. And there’s more! Cancer patients of all ages who participated in a clinical trial using the HealthRhythms™ protocol showed an enhanced immune system and increased natural killer cell activity.
Music calms and balances
Listening to and playing music considerably lowered the heart rates. It also calmed and regulated the blood pressures and respiration rates of patients recovering from surgery.
Music gets us moving
Music improves physical health and mobility by getting us moving in more ways than one – either playing an instrument or dancing to music (or simply tapping your feet). Even a little movement increases strength and flexibility.
Music keeps us social
Music creates social connections in many ways. Whether playing an instrument in a group, singing in a choir, taking a dance class, or attending a concert, music brings us together. Music helps seniors increase their social activity. It gives them important opportunities to express themselves freely, reducing anxiety and boosting mood.
Playing or learning an instrument stalls aging
Another wonderful and surprising benefit of playing an instrument is that it increases human growth hormone (HgH) production among active older Americans. HgH can increase bone density and muscle mass. Studies found that the test group who took keyboard lessons showed significantly higher levels of HgH compared to those that did not play an instrument.
At The Manhattan, coming soon to St. Pete, the robust wellness program and full educational and events calendar will give our members many enjoyable ways to bring music into their lives – making aging well easy and fun. To learn more about The Manhattan, an independent living community, contact us to schedule a personal appointment.