Benefits of Music Therapy for the Elderly

Music is powerful. Rhythm, sounds, and melodies have been used for over 45,000 years and probably much longer. Music is an innate human trait. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used to address individuals’ physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs – from young children to aging and elderly adults.

Music offers various physical and mental health benefits to older individuals. Listening to music and learning to play instruments have become a form of therapy for seniors. The treatment is so much fun that it’s considered entertainment or social activity in many senior living communities.

Music can be incorporated into any lifestyle. Songs can bring back fond memories and bring instant smiles. There are many ways to add therapeutic music into our lives and those of our aging loved ones. This article will give you some ideas you can try.  In a clinical sense, Musical Therapy’s goal for seniors is to maintain or improve physical health, mental processing, and social functioning.

Improve Memory and Focus

Music Therapy for seniors involves memorizing words, patterns, rhythms, and instructions. To participate and “make music,” participants must practice focusing enjoyably. Engaging with a group motivates participants to stay the course and perform for the team.

Calm Agitation in Dementia Patients

Music therapists use songs with distinctive themes, lyrics, instruments, and rhythms to help participants relax. This slows down the heart rate and lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol. The effect causes seniors to feel calmer and physically more capable of relaxing.

Help with Depression and Stress

Music is a powerful healing tool. It can reach inside us and impact our deepest emotions. Energetic music and joyful songs can instantly pull us out of depression, fear, and hopelessness. Just listening to music that is meaningful to us helps deliver relaxation and stress relief. The social interaction is so uplifting to seniors who may be lonely and disconnected. Depression can be forgotten while an individual is occupied and enjoying the activity.

Increase Movement and Exercise

Some Music Therapy activities include movement. This can range from clapping to moving arms and legs and shaking instruments of every shape and sound. Often participants make music together with a variety of instruments and tools. Once relaxed, the natural reaction is to start swaying and even dancing to a beat. Those who are sedentary enjoy these benefits as well.

Enhance Communication Skills

Music Therapy is a valuable tool for memory care residents. It helps by slowing the decline of speech skills. Individuals who are no longer able to verbalize are inspired to communicate their feelings by humming or moving their hands. Participants are also encouraged to communicate through singing, making it easier to express their true feelings.

Help with Socialization

Many aging adults, particularly those with dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other neurocognitive disorders, experience severe social anxiety. Social anxiety creates fear and agitation. Music Therapy for seniors can break through this fear and allow the unique opportunity to relax and enjoy the company of others. Working as a team also encourages and comforts those who

At Miami Jewish Health Music Therapy is an important, everyday, therapeutic strategy. Group sessions involve 3-12 participants. Our Music Therapist also works one-on-one with individuals who are bedridden or those who respond better alone. There is sensory stimulation, but often the groups break out in conversation about the songs. They bring back fond memories and prompt discussions about the meaning of the lyrics.  Live music performances are an integral part of life. The ability to enjoy music outdoors, with nature, is one of our resident’s favorite pastimes.

Visit Miami Jewish Health and learn more about healthy aging.

Finally, we’ll leave you with some suggestions to incorporate music into everyday living. Help your aging loved ones enjoy the benefits of music.

Create Music Playlists

Nowadays, there are so many ways to access streaming music, find existing playlists or make your own. Spotify, Pandora, Apple Music, YouTube Music – all offer access to music through multiple devices. Add an Amazon Alexa and make it as easy as possible to access music on demand. You can organize by decade, by genre, by the artist. Put together a list that will inspire, energize and entertain.

Choose the Suitable Music Device for Seniors

There are several options of music players for those living with a memory disorder. Choosing the right device is a personal choice. Your best option is to shop with your loved one physically. Get their feedback and watch them interact with the products. There are music players that are designed for those seniors living with dementia and other memory disorders. You can find them on Amazon.

Here’s a suggested playlist of songs for seniors:

  • American Pie
  • Lean on Me
  • Amazing Grace
  • Ob-La-Di
  • Blue Suede Shoes
  • Somewhere Over the Rainbow
  • Blue Skies
  • Take Me Out to the Ballgame
  • Don’t Worry Be Happy
  • This Little Light of Mine
  • The Lion Sleeps Tonight
  • You Are My Sunshine

Make Music a Priority

Set an example and start incorporating more music into your life. Play the music that your aging loved ones prefer. Engage them in using the devices by providing instructions they can clearly follow.


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