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How Seniors Can Benefit from Music

Love of music is virtually universal. Whether you’re a musician, a music aficionado, or just a casual listener, music likely plays an important role in your life. It can transform the mood of a movie scene, provide solace during a time of heartache, or miraculously make your morning commute bearable. When hearing a song you love transmutes your mood from bad to good, you may not realize that it’s the result of chemical reactions in your brain. And the measurable effects of music aren’t just beneficial to your mood—they can also be therapeutic to seniors’ mental and perhaps even physical health. Here are some ways you can apply principles from the practice of music therapy to improve or maintain the health of your mind:

  1. Find familiar tunes.
    1. Most people seem to respond to music from their childhood & adolescence. Furthermore, for seniors with memory issues such as Alzheimer’s disease, hearing a familiar song can trigger memories and help with recall. Hearing a song that you’ve heard 1,000 times isn’t as much of a brain workout as appreciating novel music, but the context it can provide for memories may help you recall more details.
  2. Use music to enhance routines & activities.
    1. Try to match the type of music you use to whatever you want to get out of your activities. Listen to softer music with a slow tempo around bedtime, and use something more upbeat & energetic during physical activity. Try typing “________ music” (“focus music,” “sleep music,” “jogging music,” etc.), according to what you’re doing, into the search field on YouTube and try out what comes up. Different types of music can elicit various moods & attitudes, so the right song or playlist may be just what you need for a soundtrack to your activities.
  3. Use customized internet radio to bring back memories and find new music.
    1. Online services such as Pandora, Spotify, iHeartRadio, and Apple Music Radio (accessible through iTunes) offer a feature that allows users to create a “station” customized to their tastes. You can, for instance, create a station that uses “Yesterday” by The Beatles to automatically curate similar songs by similar artists. Most songs will likely be familiar to you, but others will be new (to you) music that the website’s algorithm determines you’ll like. You can indicate which songs you like & dislike as you listen, and your station will adapt to your personal ratings. The end result is a “radio station” that’s totally unique to your tastes.
  4. Try learning a musical instrument.
    1. We’ve briefly discussed the cognitive benefits of learning to play an instrument before, and it’s difficult to overstate how much this activity works out the brain. If you’ve never been able to commit to learning to play an instrument before, your golden years might be the perfect time. Not every instrument is a natural fit for everyone, so experiment with a few different ones to find one that you think you can have fun with. Although they may seem more difficult at first, instruments that require high degrees of coordination, like guitar & drums, can offer helpful mental & physical exercise.

What we’ve described in this blog isn’t clinical music therapy—it’s more of a version you can apply to your everyday life. Music therapy is a rich field, and a trained clinical music therapist can help with things that might surprise you (Alzheimer’s, motor function, & much more). Our residents have access to several health, wellness, and social activities. If you’re interested in learning more about assisted living, independent living, memory care, or any of the many programs & activities we offer, please contact Village Park Senior Living for more information. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook for updates and to check back often for new blogs.