The benefits of music have long been observed, and are seen across cultures and throughout time. Human brains have been hard-wired to distinguish music from noise, and are able to respond to rhythm, repetition, and tones.
Studies using MRIs and PET scans show that specific nerve networks in different parts of the brain bear the primary responsibility for decoding and interpreting various properties of music.
For older adults especially, listening to music can help dementia and other memory-care patients, stimulate the elderly brain, as well as be used as music therapy for seniors for seniors in assisted living and at home.
What are Some Benefits of Music?
Improves Mood: Studies show that listening to music can benefit overall well-being, help regulate emotions, and lead to happiness and relaxation in everyday life. When you hear music to your liking, your brain releases dopamine, the chemical that has positive effects on mood. Music is also processed directly by the amygdala, which is the part of the brain involved in mood and emotions.
Relieves Stress and Anxiety: Listening to relaxing music has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety in healthy people, as well as those undergoing medical procedures and surgeries. It’s dopamine-boosting properties can also help regulate anxiety and depression, and triggers other biochemical stress reducers. Music can also help reduce heart rate, lower blood pressure, decrease cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and increase serotonin and endorphin levels in the blood, and blood flows more easily when music is played,
Helps with Exercise: Studies suggest that music can enhance aerobic exercise, boost mental and physical stimulation, and increase overall performance. It can also increase endurance: listening to upbeat music can boost physical performance and increase endurance during a tough exercise session.
Boosts Memory: Research has shown that the repetitive elements of rhythm and melody help our brains form patterns that enhance memory. In a study of stroke survivors, listening to music helped them experience more verbal memory, less confusion, and better focused attention.
Reduces Pain: In studies of patients recovering from surgery, those who listened to music before, during, or after surgery had less pain and more overall satisfaction compared with patients who did not listen to music as part of their care.
Improves Cognition: Listening to music can also help people with Alzheimer’s recall seemingly lost memories and even help maintain some mental abilities. The most highly publicized mental influence of music is the "Mozart effect,” that suggests that exposure to Mozart’s music can boost cognitive function by better organizing nerve cell firing.
What are some of the Benefits of Music Programs for Seniors?
Music Therapy Programs: Music provides comfort. Some of the benefits of music therapy for seniors include: helps enhance communication, coping, and expression of feelings such as fear, loneliness, and anger in patients who are in end-of-life care or are suffering from a serious illness. Music therapy is also used for dementia patients and as an activity for Alzheimer’s patients.
Music and the Elderly Brain: Music stimulates memories. Though there is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, music therapy programs have been shown to relieve some of its symptoms. Music therapy can relax an agitated patient, improve mood, and open communication.
Quicker Recovery for Older Adults: Music helps with healing. Studies have seen patients recuperate quicker from strokes, surgeries and falls. It can help manage pain as well by reducing stress levels and providing a stimulus that competes with pain to “enter” the brain.
Best Music Activity Ideas for Older Adults
There’s no doubt about it: music programs and activities are great for the elderly. Here are five music-based activities and exercises for seniors that will support their health, happiness, and longevity.
Social distancing policies don’t mean that socializing stops. Virtual karaoke is a great opportunity safe socialization where the players can have fun and make friends while enjoying the benefits of music.
When making the content, choose an appropriate level of challenge, and make them fun! At televeda, we host sing-a-long classes for our members to enjoy music from throughout the decades. We take recommendations for songs they want to sing, record the music, create lyric screens, and then connect the seniors through a shared love of music.
Zen Meditation involves observing thoughts and feelings, as well as becoming in tune with the nature of one’s body. Practicers sit upright and follow the movement of their breath as they let go of all judgements. Some of the various benefits include reduced stress, better pain management, stronger immune systems, and lowered blood pressure.
Live Music Concerts for Seniors
While big concerts with large crowds are still months away, fans of classical music can get a taste of what they’re missing with these online concerts. At televeda, we offer free virtual concerts with the public through our partnership with the City of Chandler’s Symphony Orchestra: the CSO Wind Quintet.
Live streamed at live.televeda.com, these live music concerts have allowed seniors and their families from across the country to experience the benefits of music and community, safely.
To sign up for televeda’s next free live concert, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find other live music concerts online that cover a variety of music types. Check out this list here.
Music & Movement for the Elderly: Aka Dance!
Dance is a fun, accessible exercise that only requires a desire to move! Dance improves agility, posture, and muscle memory. Studies have also shown dancing regularly reduces dizziness and helps prevent cognitive decline. So, whether you want to learn a dance routine, or just enjoy swaying to a favorite tune, dancing is a great cardio exercise for seniors.
Plus, it can help senior citizens work on balance and strength. A 2011 study showed that adults 65 and older at risk of falling could improve their gait and balance by walking and dancing to music. By the end of the study, the “dancers” of the study could walk better and experienced 54% fewer falls! Similar music and movement programs also appear to improve the mobility of patients with Parkinson's disease.
At televëda, we love to include aspects of dance in several of our fitness classes, as well as bring in experts to teach various dance forms, such as seated tap dancing with Team USA’s very own Zachary Kelly, learning Inner Dance Movement with Shiamak Davar, or tapping to the beat at our Strength & Fitness classes.
The game of musical chairs is a great way to combine movement and music for the elderly. However, please note this is not a socially-distant activity (unless you are playing it virtually).
When it's safe for seniors to socialize in person, set up a great game of musical chairs! This music exercise combines some of their favorite music with movement, friends, and a healthy sense of competition, you'll see multiple benefits from this classic game.
The Power of Music in the Lives of Seniors
Music is an incredible way to bring healing, health, and fun into the lives of senior citizens. Whether providing a music therapy program, setting up a fun music game, or having them join virtual programming that offers music-based activities, bringing music to the lives of your older loved ones can bring so much joy.