Whether it’s Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata,” Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” or Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” music strikes a chord within just about all of us.
Studies show that people in every age group benefit from music therapy, which relaxes the body, reduces muscle tension, boosts productivity, decreases stress levels, and strengthens memory and learning.
Seniors especially benefit from the healing power of music through better awareness and concentration, enhanced interest levels, improved memory and recall, and increased mobility and coordination.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America shares that seniors with Alzheimer’s and related dementias can benefit from music therapy in a variety of ways. Music can facilitate cognitive and coordinate motor movements, in addition to other improvements like shifting mood and managing stress-induced agitation.
Most of us associate music with pivotal events and strong emotions in our lives, an association so strong that we only need to hear a note or two of a favorite song to be mentally transported back to the event or feeling. But, interestingly, it has also been shown that unfamiliar music can be beneficial to seniors who may be agitated, specifically because it carries no memories or emotions.
For patients in the late stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, the Alzheimer Foundation suggest using a patient’s “old favorites” for touchstones and sing-alongs, and then playing unfamiliar, soothing music to provide a sense of comfort.
Alzheimer patients are also encouraged to exercise music, as well as participate in drumming and other rhythm-based activities. Studies show a person’s ability to engage in music, including rhythm playing and singing, sticks around late into the disease process because such activities don’t mandate overly-burdensome cognitive functioning for success.
Music has the transformative and restorative power to help aging seniors even towards the end of life. It is entirely possible for music to provide memories for those who no longer remember much of anything else and provide a soothing, healing mental balm for the agitated.
By Brian Carrigan