How Music Benefits Older Adults

March 31, 2018

Music to Our Ears: The Benefits of Music for Older Adults

Untitled1It has been said that music is the universal language of mankind. Whether singing “happy birthday,” playing in your high school marching band, or attempting more serious instrument mastery, music has likely played a part
in your life. But did you know that there are a variety of benefits to incorporating music into your life, especially as you age?

Physical Fitness

Studies have shown that when older adults listen to music while exercising they gain increased mobility and coordination. One study compared two groups of seniors, one that exercised to music and one that exercised without it. The group that used music saw improved balance and a reduction in falls outside of their exercise routine as the benefits attributed to music carried into their daily lives.

Music is also a great motivator for physical activity, and matching the rhythm and tempo to the activity is shown to improve stamina and performance.

Disease and Illness Prevention

Music has also been shown to improve sleep, which helps protect against serious medical conditions including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Soothing songs with a slow rhythm of 60 to 80 beats per minute, the low end of a resting heart rate, can encourage your brain to sync your heart rate with the beat of the music and lull you into a restorative sleep.

In a hospital setting, music has been shown to significantly lower the heart rates and regulated blood pressure and respiration rates in patients who had undergone surgery. Even cancer patients have shown benefits from music. A clinical trial revealed that participants of a research-based group drumming program showed an increase in the cell activity that boosts the immune system to fight cancer.

Mental Well-Being

Studies have shown that music reduces stress and anxiety and can even reverse stress at the molecular level. One study on mental well-being tested cognitive and mental speed tasks, such as trying to recall a list of 15 words immediately after a short study period. One group completed the tasks to no music, one to white noise, one to Mozart, and one to Mahler. Interestingly, episodic memory was not improved in any situation, while semantic memory was better with music, and processing speed was improved specifically in the Mozart group. Researchers factored emotions into the study, and a mood questionnaire indicated that Mozart generated higher happiness than the other three sound choices.

Another study showed that adults ages 60-85 who did not have previous musical experience showed improved memory and processing speed after three months of 30-minute weekly piano lessons coupled with three hours of weekly practice. Those who began playing an instrument as a child have also been shown to have preserved cognition in older age.

Regardless of age, music can benefit us all. From enhancing mood to improving sleep and reducing stress, it’s never too late to start incorporating music into your daily life to begin enjoying its positive effects.

Read this article and more in our March newsletter.

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