Famous American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” His words hint at the profound impact music has on individuals of all ages, from all parts of the world, and from all walks of life. Though music can be inspirational, therapeutic, and even life-changing at any age, older adults stand to gain even greater benefits from exposure to music. Here are five major ways music can benefit seniors.

  1. Improve Memory

For older adults struggling with memory loss, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, music can be a powerful tool in both treating the symptoms of and preventing further memory decline. Music therapy for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia has proven to help stimulate brain activity, especially when songs relate to strong memories like an individual’s first dance song or a favorite song growing up. In some cases, seniors who have lost the ability to speak have retained the ability to hum along to songs. Music can also help improve mood swings, irritability, and frustration common to memory loss. 

2. Reduce Cognitive Decline

Even for older adults not struggling with memory loss, music can be a great way to exercise the brain. Neurologists have found that listening to music requires listeners to follow and interpret a melody, as well as anticipate patterns, both of which can help to keep a mind nimble. Playing an instrument kicks this “workout for the brain” into overdrive, as the musician must work with his or her hands to manipulate an instrument, in addition to interpreting a melody and remembering patterns.

3. Lower Stress and Anxiety

Music can have positive effects on seniors’ emotional and spiritual wellbeing by providing peace and comfort. For seniors in the middle of hard transitions, like moving from their private home to an assisted or independent living community, music can create a calming presence, lowering overall stress and anxiety associated with change.

4. Encourage Connection

Music is often described as the great connector. It has the power to bring people together no matter where they’re from, how old they are, or what they’ve experienced. Loneliness and a feeling of isolation are common among older adults who may start to lose loved ones, life partners, and good friends. Music can be a wonderful icebreaker that brings seniors together over a shared interest. Whether by listening to a favorite record, attending a concert together, or even singing in a choir, music has a unique ability to connect.

5. Improve Overall Health

One of the hallmarks of music is that it encourages movement. Whether a tap of the toe, slight nod of the head, or a full-out dance, music inspires movement. It can be a great motivator for seniors to participate in physical activity, from walking or jogging to biking, stretching, or light weightlifting. Music-based fitness classes like Zumba or aerobics are also wonderful ways to get seniors moving without realizing they’re putting in the work to stay healthy and active.

At St. Martin’s in the Pines, music is a big part of everyday life and programming for residents. The community often hosts local music groups to play special performances for residents. Additionally, music classes, singing, and dance lessons are all offered regularly as enrichment opportunities for residents. In October, Opera Birmingham performed an outdoor concert for residents. August brought the Bluegrass Connection and July featured the Tradewinds Duo. Ready to make music with St. Martin’s? Click here to schedule a tour.