Listening to music is a fun and entertaining activity for people of all ages, but for seniors, it could also play a part in improving their quality of life. An engaging song not only has the ability to get one’s foot tapping, but may in turn evoke positive feelings, help with relaxation, aid in neurological functioning, and promote discussion among clients and caregivers. That’s why music therapy sessions have been shown to be beneficial for many older adults.
The Older Americans Act of 1992 describes music therapy as “the use of musical or rhythmic interventions specifically selected by a music therapist to accomplish the restoration, maintenance, or improvement of social or emotional functioning, mental processing, or physical health of an older individual.” As a non -verbal approach to therapy, music therapy aims to improve clients’ mental and physical well-being. Clients may listen to music or make it themselves using their voice, drums, or other instruments. The residents at Fort Tyron look forward to the biweekly music therapy sessions.
On the neurological front, there’s increasing evidence that music therapy can help seniors recover seemingly lost memories and even aid in maintaining some cognitive functioning. Even for those who, due to dementia, have trouble communicating, hearing music from an earlier time in their lives may inspire a positive response and involvement in the therapy session.
In addition to its helping seniors with neurological function, there’s evidence that music therapy can help push back against negative emotions. A Stanford School of Medicine study has shown that music therapy helps to relieve stress and depression for seniors. The study, which included 30 people over the age of 80, concluded that participants in a weekly therapy group were less anxious, less frustrated and had higher self-esteem. All participants in the study had previously shown signs of depression. Listening to music, when done as a social activity, also stimulates discussion and camaraderie among clients as well as their caregivers. This helps strengthen social skills, and could also keep isolation at bay, which can lead to depression and anxiety.
This is also an activity that includes beneficial physical activity — dancing, clapping and stomping are encouraged in the session, promoting balance, coordination and endurance .
What’s more, music is an inclusive activity that can engage people of all ages and abilities. Whether a client chooses to dance and sing along, or simply listen, music can have a positive effect that is undeniable.