Older, wiser and in tune: Why seniors should embrace music

Play an Instrument

 

Older, wiser and in tune: Why seniors should embrace music

 

Music is associated with multiple cognitive and physical benefits. According to USA Today, just listening to music has been associated with eased physical pain, improved motivation, enhanced blood vessel function and reduced stress in patients of all ages. If you take that a notch further and combine it with even more active pastimes like singing, dancing or playing a musical instrument, you can improve outcomes even more and stay sharp well into your senior years.

 

It doesn’t matter if you are a veteran of your long-ago elementary school orchestra or tone deaf but dedicated, there are a variety of ways you can incorporate music in order to see positive mental and physical benefits. Here are a few suggestions.

 

Play an instrument

 

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Playing a musical instrument is like a full-body workout for your brain. Instead of only using one part of your brain, playing a musical instrument uses various parts of your brain. That increased activity helps you stay mentally sharp, which will lead to a more fulfilling and active life. For seniors, playing an instrument has been linked to improved memory and overall health outcomes.

 

Now is the perfect time to reconnect with an instrument you once loved but has since been collecting dust while you managed a career and life.

 

Don’t know how to play an instrument? That’s OK, too. Learning an instrument in your ’50s or ’60s isn’t a pipe dream. Look at this way: In some ways, learning an instrument as an adult is even better than learning as a child because you can better appreciate the journey -- and you have more patience and better discipline for the necessary practice it takes to master anything.

 

Oh, and don’t let noise concerns dissuade you from playing. Network within your personal social circles or music shops or groups to find like-minded peers who also want to play. They may have a space you can use for jam sessions. Better yet, turn that extra room -- maybe a bedroom or home office that’s outgrown its original purpose -- into a soundproof space. Soundproofing a room is easy and inexpensive.

 

Embrace the sociality of music

 

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Music brings people together, and seniors can benefit from embracing that social side. If you are looking to better connect with your children or grandchildren, music is a great conduit for connecting. You can host a “listening hour” with your children and grandchildren where you share music from your youth and pair it with stories about yourself or your family’s history. To get them actively engaged, you can ask the children and grandchildren to create their own playlists for you to checkout. Then, you can discuss. (Just remember to keep an open mind to different genres!)

 

If you are looking to connect with new people, musical events like concerts or line-dancing meetups are a low-stress, fun way to do just that. Many senior and community centers offer free or low-cost programs.

 

Listen to (more) music

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Seniors, especially ones adjusting to empty nests, often deal with a lot of conflicting emotions. Listening to your favorite music is a great way to explore those emotions and soothe anxieties. Research has suggested listening to music triggers the so-called “reward center” in your brain and produces hormones that keep you feeling happy. Fill your empty rooms with new melodies. They will complement the memories and help you sort through your feelings.

 

Marie Villeza is owner and outreach specialist of ElderImpact.org, a site dedicated to assisting the aging community with today's struggles and challenges. Be sure to check out her site here!