Music is one of the few constants in our lives, from our very first memories to our last days. From the moment our mothers begin whispering lullabies in our ears, music plays a role in our lives and can elicit any number of emotions. Chances are you have experienced the phenomenon of hearing a song that suddenly takes you back to exactly where you were when you first heard it. That association between music and memory is buried deep in our brains and as we are now learning, that serves us very well.
Numerous research studies are showing that music plays a central role in healthy aging. Whether it is used to calm Alzheimer’s patients or motivate seniors to move, music holds an important key to creating positive change. Here are some examples of what scientists are discovering about the power of music in seniors’ lives.
Clearing some of the clouds of Alzheimer’s Disease
Sit in any room with dementia patients who suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease and watch what happens when music from their era is played. Even the non-verbal patients may begin to sing along with the music. The lyrics from well-loved songs that were popular in the seniors’“hay day” are still there, deep in their brains, and music releases it. As a result, the right music can improve a dementia patient’s mood, manage disease-induced agitation and improve some motor functions.
Music and Memory
Music has its own power. If you think of a memory from your past, it usually will not be accompanied by song! However, if you hear a song it may make you recall an event that you have not thought of for a long time. That is how music works to the benefit of seniors with memory impairment. Not only can they sing along, but they may also recall memories of happy times that are long forgotten. Music therapy is a positive experience for memory impaired patients, creates socialization and an exchange of memories and experiences.
Shall We Dance?
Music can motivate seniors to get up and move. If they can’t get up, music may cause seniors to move in slow, rhythmic movements while seated. Any movement improves strength and mobility.
Researchers at the Music Therapy Center of California say, “Music, dancing and movement activities can aid in maintaining walking endurance, improve range of motion, strength, functional hand movements and finger dexterity, and improve limb coordination.”
When it comes to reaping the positive effects of music, the most important thing to remember is this: play music that is upbeat and happy. Avoid music that is apt to cause memories of sad events. If the music makes you tap your toes, it is a good choice for everyone involved.