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.

Goodbye Winter, Hello Spring!

March 20, 2018

Spring: Re-emerging and Reawakening

UntitledThe spring equinox is celebrated as the first day of spring when day and night are equal in both hemispheres. All of nature is stirring now and showing signs of activity after the winter sleep. Buds are bursting on and seeds are germinating. Weather is beginning to warm and we see nature’s bounty re-emerge. Birds are chirping, bees are droning, and an abundance of blooming flowers signal the end of winter. The power of the sun is increasing, the days are lengthening, and the nights are shortening. We begin to feel empowered to reach out for what we want and to take risks, strike out on our own, go for walks, and connect to the Earth again.

Even though our minds are eager for the warm weather ahead, our bodies are oftentimes weighed down by the sluggishness of winter. Luckily, there are many ways to detoxify the body, mind, and spirit from the sludge of winter. Exercise, especially yoga, cleanses the body by stimulating the lymphatic, circulatory, and digestive systems to rid the body of toxins and waste. Why not join one of our exercise classes or the yoga class?

Read this article and more in our March newsletter.

Resident Spotlight: Patricia O’Brien

March 8, 2018

Patricia O’Brien: A Life of Many Seasons

Patricia O’Brien has led a multifaceted life, living in different climates, countries, and circumstances – from young Navy wife to entrepreneur to retired European explorer.

Patricia O'BrienOnce the children reached adulthood and left the home, a new life season began. Tilt accepted an assignment in Alberta, Canada, and he and Patricia made a home there for 5 years. “Sixty degrees below zero was the coldest we ever lived through there. It wasn’t near that temperature most of the time. There was also a lot of sunshine and long summer days,” Patricia recalls. While Tilt worked, Patricia enrolled in various college courses, studying accounting, French, and painting. These courses laid the foundation for their next phase. When Tilt retired, the couple moved to San Jose and Patricia created her own business, the Yarn Studio, and ran it for 10 years. Patricia tells me, “When I had the shop, Tilt said one day, ‘If you ever sell the shop, I’d like to live in Europe for a while.’ Sure enough, the shop sold a month later!”

The couple then embarked on their European adventure. Patricia recalls, “We happened to be in Germany the day the wall came down and Germany was reunited. I remember people lined up at the post office wanting to get the first printing of the new unified stamps.”

Upon returning to California, Patricia put her accounting knowledge to work and started a career as an Enrolled Agent, preparing income tax returns for her neighbors and, later, a full book of clients. During this time, Tilt participated in an active retirement club where he planned group sightseeing trips around the world. “We visited places like Rome and the Greek Isles. It was a wonderful opportunity,” Patricia says.

Now at Sterling Court, Patricia finds herself in a new season of life. She still enjoys painting and recently displayed several of her works in the Sterling Court community art show. Staying connected to family also remains important to Patricia, and her circle has grown exponentially over time to now include 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren. Closer to home, her sister, Arlene, lives just across the hall. Speaking of her sister, she smiles, “We get along very well. We spend a lot of time together, but we also make a point to meet other people here.”

Read this article and more in our March newsletter.

A Lasting Legacy: Writing Your Life Story

February 23, 2018

UntitledTelling Your Story

Over the years, your words and wisdom have no doubt helped shape the lives of those around you – your children, partner, colleagues, and even fellow Sterling Court residents. Each of us has a unique set of experiences and resulting life lessons, and the practice of sharing these can forge new friendships, deepen existing relationships, and impart insight. One way to share your story is to write it down as part of a growing trend called “life story writing.” 

The Benefits of Recording Your Story

It has been reported that those who write their life stories often find a new appreciation for the people and events that they have experienced in their past. The act of reviewing and recording memories allows you to tell your story from your perspective and, as a result, realize how distinct and important your life has been. You may recall a previous struggle that you successfully overcame or a significant goal that you achieved. The process of reviewing these memories can strengthen your self-confidence and improve your attitude toward confronting new life challenges.

How to Start

The task of writing your life story may initially seem daunting, but there are no rules for how to format or record your tales. The trick is to just start writing. Whether you put pen to paper or use a computer, start by recording a single event, something that sticks out to you, or a story that you have told many times before. Once the words start flowing, writing will not seem as momentous a task, and you can go back and reorder your stories later.

Another helpful tip is not to get hung up on spelling or grammar when first transcribing your thoughts. When starting out, it is more important to open your memory floodgates and get reacquainted with writing than to capture every word in a print-perfect form.

Lastly, another good way to get the ball rolling is to conduct a personal interview – either of yourself or by enlisting the help of a friend or family member to interview you and record your answers. Here are a few interview prompts that may jump-start your memories:

  1. What personal accomplishment brings you the most pride – parenthood, a home you built, a business you started, etc.?
  2. What is one of your best childhood memories?
  3. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?


The practice of life story writing is expanding as new generations with an interest in preserving their stories enter retirement. There are several resources dedicated to helping storytellers pass on their memories, including books, websites such as A Life Untold and Your Life is Your Story, and even community classes right here on the Peninsula.


No matter how you go about it, the practice of recording your life story is sure to help you gain a deeper perspective on your past, as well as serve as a cherished gift to your loved ones that they can pass down to future generations.

Read this article and more in our February newsletter.

Fun Facts: U.S. Presidents

February 19, 2018

Presidential Trivia

Happy Presidents’ Day! How many of these facts did you know about the former presidents of the United States? Let us know!
Presidential Trivia

  1. George Washington is the only president to be elected unanimously.
  2. John Quincy Adams wore the same hat for 10 years.
  3. Martin Van Buren was the first president born as a U.S. citizen.
  4. James Polk’s wife, Sarah Childress, banned dancing in the White House.
  5. Abraham Lincoln was the first president born outside of the original 13 colonies.
  6. Ulysses S. Grant was once fined $20 for speeding on his horse.
  7. James Garfield entertained friends by writing Latin with one hand and Greek with the other.
  8. Gerald Ford was an assistant football coach at Yale, played football at the University of Michigan, and turned down offers to play for the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
  9. William Henry Harrison was inaugurated on a bitterly cold day and gave the longest inauguration speech ever. He promptly caught a cold that soon developed into pneumonia. Harrison died exactly one month into his presidential term, the shortest in U.S. history.
  10. John Tyler fathered 15 children (more than any other president; 8 by his first wife and 7 by his second wife. Tyler was 70 years old when his 15th child was born.)
  11. Often depicted wearing a tall, black, stovepipe hat, Abraham Lincoln carried letters, bills, and notes in his hat.
  12. The teddy bear derived from Theodore (“Teddy”) Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a bear with her cub while on a hunting trip in Mississippi.
  13. The letter “S” comprises the full middle name of Harry S. Truman. It represents two of his grandfathers, whose names both had “S” in them.

Read this article and more in our February newsletter.

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