According to the opinions of several scholars and especially neuroscientists, therapists, and doctors, the benefits of music on the elderly are many. A person, who has something to do with music; singing, playing, or dancing, gets a dopamine release from his/her body. The resulting advantages could be on the mood, on the cardiovascular system, on concentration, on memory, on the development of intellectual and social faculties.
Music is used worldwide to treat depression, the swings of mood, hyperactivity, problems of interaction, share of attention, the pain, appetite, and many other issues. Some studies have correlated music and the reduction of psychotherapy drugs.
Everyone benefits from music, but we are going to consider the effects and benefits that music, in general, has on older people.
“Music therapy is a way of approaching the person who uses music and sound as a non – verbal communication tool, to intervene at an educational, rehabilitative or therapeutic level, in a variety of pathological and paraphysiological conditions .”
In general, we can consider music therapy as a means to achieve certain goals and improve life through music. If applied to the elderly, music therapy has proved to be very effective and truly incident for a numerous series of symptoms, areas of disturbance, physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs.
Older people can have a very difficult time, with depressive attacks that are very common at this age. These activities help maintain good physical and mental health. The older person’s interaction with music helps and stimulates the brain in both long and short-term prior knowledge, especially in patients with dementia. In these cases, there is a concrete help of orientation to reality, with the music that manages to provide a sense of joy simply by recalling lived and happy moments.
To do this, exercises such as singing, dancing, the use of simple musical instruments are used, even just to give a rhythm. The approach to music, therefore, has very notable and proven benefits. This is also supported by a study called “Recreational music-making modulates immunological responses and mood states in older adults. Published in 2009 in the scientific journal “Journal of Medical and Dental Sciences.
Benefits of music therapy on the elderly
1. Counteract boredom
This is by no means trivial and you would be making a grave mistake to consider this as unimportant. An elderly person, even if you think he is in a privileged position being at home and retired, can often get lost in the silence of his/her mind, day after day. People who are hardly listening to music may experience a sense of social disconnection, loneliness, and boredom. Even just listening to music, their favourite song could add variety to the day. There are easy-to-use readers and very comfortable headphones that may be suitable for older persons.
2. Motivate movement
There is evidence that the simple tapping with fingers on a surface, claps your hands, or taps the foot, is sufficient to release the stress physically and mentally repressed and can soothe people even in patients without a lot of ability to move. If the older person can get up and dance then, the benefits of even a simple movement are enormous, such as lowering blood pressure and stimulating various organs in the body.
There is no need to make sudden or too risky movements of course, but whatever level of physical activity an elderly person can achieve, it can be combined with a musical tune. Many old people’s centres periodically offer dances such as slow waltz or jitterbug. It is not only a way to remember the old days, but also a fundamental physical activity.
3. Bringing back positive memories
It is not just a matter of nostalgia, songs speak to our emotions, of everyone who is young and old and the elderly know well the emotional language of music, especially that of their times. Simply listening to favourite songs helps bring to mind past moments, happy days and this greatly improves the mood.
4. Calm the nerves
We all know that a lullaby can calm a small child. Well, a song can calm a nervous elderly person, even with health and psychological problems. Certain types of song generate a sense of well-being. A fragile nervous system requires a special sensitivity to avoid overload, and music therapy can help with this.
5. Promote social interactions
If the activities are carried out in a group, social interactions can increase, sharing tastes, songs, memories, and anecdotes. Even in patients with dementia, mere proximity to other people can lead to improved mood and stimulation of social interactions.
Examples of music therapy
Now that we have seen the advantages of music therapy on the elderly, let’s try to understand how to obtain these advantages and the activities that are carried out to try to obtain these results.
I. Choice of Song
Among the benefits of music for the elderly, there is also this. You let the person choose the song or artist they prefer or want to listen to. If he/she succeeds and is in condition to do so, it is a good way to do that interact and put him/her in touch with a melody, the atmosphere that remind him/her of the happy years, beautiful joys and people care.
II. Guess the song
This is a very popular activity among music therapists; they choose songs and play short clips. The aim is to stimulate the search for memories in the past, mixing events and bringing out old events.
III. Sing the songs
If looking for them and guessing their titles are very useful activities, singing them is also useful. Even small clips or aided by a visual aid such as karaoke is a very important exercise to do to stimulate the memory and “force” the brain to put together old memories.
If it is within the elder’s abilities, even a simple dance can be very important. Imagine the joy of remembering old waltz steps you took with a loved one.
IV. Classical music
Although there were experts of the genre, broadcast classical music in environments of inactivity, such as before going to bed, it is evident to have relaxing effects and soothing, creating an ideal atmosphere before going to bed.