How Music and Alzheimer’s Heals & Can Bring Happiness to Seniors
Music therapy is the use of music to achieve physical, mental, and emotional health goals. Music therapists work in a wide variety of locations with many people, but the practice can be especially beneficial for seniors.
Music stimulates many different areas of the brain, including the regions of the brain that deal with speech, memory, coordination, and emotions. Because it has such a profound impact on the brain, it can be used to strengthen brain functioning.
Participating in music can also be a very physical activity, whether you’re playing a drum, using your breath to sing, or moving around as you listen to a song. This means that music therapy is a great way to target physical problems.
Music and Alzheimer’s
Music is fun, relaxing, and motivating. Even if the purpose of music therapy is to work toward a health goal, it doesn’t feel like work. It’s very enjoyable, and people want to participate in making music. Instead of feeling like treatment or therapy, it feels like a fun, stress-relieving activity.
All seniors can benefit from music and Alzheimer’s therapy, regardless of their musical ability. According to Lady Sovereign, the purpose of music therapy isn’t to play great-sounding music, but rather to participate in musical activities that relieve stress and improve health. You can either participate in music therapy by singing, playing drums or other instruments, or just by listening.
Music therapists work with individuals and groups. Depending on who the music therapist is working with, he or she will design music activities that target different health goals. Some of the most common goals music therapy can help achieve include:
It’s almost impossible to make music with someone and not feel a connection with them. Many seniors report feeling lonely or isolated, but music therapy can create powerful relationships and provide seniors with an opportunity to interact with others in a group.
Making music with others requires you to listen and respond, so even if you’re not talking, you can feel a bond through the music. This social engagement can be a very powerful healing experience and can provide the interaction everyone needs to combat feelings of loneliness. You can also check out these easy crafts for seniors that will also stimulate the mind!
Music has a powerful ability to give you a voice. Some seniors struggle with cognitive issues that affect speech, and many people with Alzheimer’s have difficulty communicating.
Sometimes, it becomes easier to sing than to speak. Even if someone has completely lost the ability to speak, he or she can sometimes still sing. This happens because music activates many areas in the brain, not just the areas involved with speaking. After a music therapy session, individuals are often able to speak more clearly, answer questions, and demonstrate sharper decision-making skills.
One of the biggest benefits of music therapy is its effect on cognitive abilities. Music therapy affects memory and thought processing, so it can be used to improve cognitive functioning.
Listening to music from an earlier time in your life often triggers vivid memories. Music can access memories better than almost anything else, so participating in music activities is a great way to strengthen your memory.
There are a wide variety of different activities that music therapists use to help seniors with memory. For example, learning a song and trying to memorize the lyrics is a memory activity, but it’s fun enough that it doesn’t feel like work.
Some drumming activities can strengthen memory as well. One music therapy group member might play a rhythm on a drum, and another group member will have to remember it and repeat it. In another activity, a group may start with a short rhythm and gradually add onto it, trying to remember it fully even as it gets longer and longer.
When you make music, it almost always involves some type of movement. This might be the motion of playing a drum or another instrument, or clapping or tapping your feet along with a song. Music therapy also sometimes involves dancing or other hand motions.
The strong rhythmic pulse in a piece of music can help with coordination and balance. Moving around while making music or listening to music is also just a great way to get your blood flowing and your body moving.
Stress Reduction and Quality of Life
Listening to a favorite song or to a relaxing piece of music can be very calming, both physically and mentally. It can lower your heart rate and reduce feelings of depression or anxiety.
Playing music is also a great stress reliever. It gets you involved in something physically and mentally, which can create a distraction from sources of stress or anxiety. The physical action of playing music can reduce tension in the body as well.
The Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a study with individuals over the age of 80 who were showing signs of depression. Those who participated in a weekly music therapy group had higher self-esteem and were less anxious and distressed.
In addition to all the physical and mental health benefits of music therapy, it has great healing qualities and can improve the overall quality of life for seniors. It’s enjoyable, interesting, and helps you connect with others. Seniors who regularly go to music therapy sessions tend to be happier and calmer, and it’s a fun activity to look forward to.
Some community centers offer music therapy groups for seniors, and some music therapists run music therapy groups through a private practice. Whether you want to play music or simply listen, music therapy can be an excellent way to enjoy a hobby while also improving your health.