Think about how hearing your favorite song can instantly evoke happy feelings. Or, how a song from your childhood can take you down memory lane. Music is powerful and has been used as part of therapy in different arenas for decades.
Music soothes and nurtures. It inspires and energizes. Due to these positive effects, it can be used as a tool to aid seniors facing challenges with their physical or emotional health.
According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, one of the reasons music has been a successful form of therapy is because it requires little to no mental cognition. Men and women experiencing memory loss, mood swings, and chronic pain are able to respond and engage because of the connection they make with music. A person doesn’t have to remember lyrics to enjoy the notes being played.
The power of music goes all the way back to childhood. For example, parents who sing or play lullabies for their children do so with the intent to help them relax before bedtime or soothe them to sleep. The meaning behind the music is to manifest a specific reaction. The same theory is applied for music therapy for seniors, especially for patients with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.
How Music Stimulates the Mind
As a person ages, often the memory begins to fade. There doesn’t have to be a specific diagnosis of dementia in order for a person to feel the isolating and frightened feelings that come with the onset of memory loss. Music therapy is defined by the purposeful intention for a person to recall memories, engage with others, and not feel as secluded.
For those who suffer from dementia, the ability to communicate is limited. Music helps bridge the gap between what they may feel and what they want to say. It’s a universal element everyone can relate to and doesn’t require processing of information or actual words being spoken for messages to be sent and received.
Due to the type of music played or the particular song selected, a therapist or a loved one can gauge a person’s reaction to understand if the memory they’re having is painful, happy, or one that doesn’t make them connect at all. This form of communication may seem insubstantial, but for people who are unable to talk at all, it can mean everything.
Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors
We all wish to grow old gracefully and will do what we can to help our parents and grandparents feel the same way. How can something as seemingly simple as music have such a profound effect?
Music therapy offers a way to improve a senior’s level of mental comprehension, social engagement, and physical health. It also helps reduce stress. Understandably, seniors facing chronic pain or foggy memories can become easily agitated. Playing music can help ease this anxiety and put a person in a more relaxed state of mind. This can make a patient more receptive to family visits or put them in a better position to interact in group settings.
Music can improve both physical and social skills. This benefit can range from giving someone the opportunity to remain active by dancing or simply clapping along and swaying to the beat. Music therapy is designed to create a sense of support and connectedness no matter a person’s level of mobility or recognition.
The hope with any type of therapy is to ease the pain of our loved ones and bring them peace as they deal with aging, illness or disease. If the therapy chosen can also spark joy, all the better.