Music can bring back memories and affect moods. It is a hallmark of celebrations. One song can take you to your childhood while another finds you on the shores of a Hawaiian island. For seniors who may find themselves alone more often than not, music can offer not only mood enhancement, but mental benefits as well.
A study conducted at UC Irvine showed a correlation between music and memory. Alzheimer’s patients improved their scores on memory tests when they listened to classical music. Other studies reveal weekly music lessons and practice also improved memory in the elderly. The National Endowment for the Arts reported improvement in mental and physical health among the elderly along with strengthening social networks when involved in art.
Many elderly hesitate to pick up an instrument for the first time, holding the belief that they are just too old to learn something that can take years, if not decades, to master. The truth is that learning a mentally demanding skill like a new musical instrument improves cognitive functioning.
As there can be an initial high-learning curve, passion is an important element to consider and one that will keep your loved one picking up the instrument even when frustrated. What instrument called to them in their younger years, but they never took the time to investigate learning it? If they’re uncertain, visit a local music store where they have demos. Consider renting an instrument for your parent until you’re sure this will be a lasting endeavor.
Music to Soothe the Soul
For those that have no desire to play an instrument, music can still play an important part in their well-being. Help them create a playlist on a music streaming service. The art of putting songs together and choosing different mood categories can fill them with anticipation, both to create and to enjoy.
Many senior community centers offer music classes as well as instruction in other arts. Your local AARP and adult education centers will have information on classes geared to the elderly. Finding a class atmosphere as compared to a one-on-one learning environment helps seniors connect with other like-minded individuals and expand their social network. A senior care provider can assist with transportation to classes or help set your loved one up with their own music playlists.