Seniors and Sound: How Does Music Benefit Seniors and Older Adults?

From Monitoring Their Health To Maintaining Their Social Well-being, Seniors And Older Adults Have A Lot To Keep In Mind. Could Music Be The Key To All-Around Wellness?

Every year of a person’s life brings new developments, and growing older doesn’t mean that life stops changing. As older adults enter retirement and assisted living communities, they are faced with new routines and new mental and physical challenges. 

While seniors might face challenges as they adapt to new phases of life, there are many resources that older adults can use to make their life transitions happen smoothly. By engaging with music, both as a participant and as a listener, seniors benefit greatly. 

a record player surrounded by vinyl records
Increasing motivation, encouraging socialization, and improving all-around wellbeing — these are just a few of the benefits that music offers seniors. 

How Music Promotes Wellness

By evoking powerful memories and emotions, music stimulates feelings of well-being in a person. In addition to channeling these impactful, positive memories, music can alleviate physical discomfort in seniors and can improve a person’s general quality of life.

Exercise Encouragement

Finding the time and motivation to exercise can be challenging, especially if you are experiencing other physical pains and discomfort. 

However, music can be very helpful for boosting a person’s motivation and energy. Whether you're walking, stretching, dancing, or doing weight exercises, music can give you the extra push you need to complete your physical activity. 

For seniors, music that is used during exercise also functions as a type of encouragement. If seniors are motivated to get more exercise, then they are more likely to receive all of the health benefits from frequent physical activity. By exercising regularly, older adults can maintain their sense of independence and can rehabilitate physical functions that have been lost as a result of injury or illness. 

Additionally, an increase in movement — regardless of a person’s age or fitness level — can lead to many other benefits, including improved:

  • Muscle strength
  • Flexibility
  • Heart health
  • Bone density
  • And balance

When assisted living professionals incorporate appropriate music in physical activities and programs, they offer seniors a chance to maintain an exercise routine that is safe and beneficial to their health. 

Decreased Isolation

Aging can sometimes mean facing location changes and health problems that can interfere with frequent communication with neighbors, friends, and family. When these factors get in the way of social interaction, the resulting isolation can lead to other health risks — and can even shorten a person’s life span. 

This is where music comes in. Even though feelings of isolation can be common for seniors, musical activities are a great way to increase communication and build community. In assisted living facilities, there are many musical events that can also be great opportunities for social engagement amongst seniors. These activities can include:

  • Singing
  • Dancing
  • Playing instruments
  • Listening to music
  • Watching musical performances

In addition to bringing people together, these musical activities can also enhance the cognition and language abilities of people with dementia, which leads to the improvement of a person’s general communication abilities. 

an older adult engaging in a therapy exercise with a ball
Dealing with mental and physical illness can be difficult for seniors. Fortunately, music and music therapy can help alleviate some of the discomfort and pain that older adults might be experiencing. 

Music and Dealing With Illness

While music can help seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia improve their memory, music can also help older adults deal with other mental and physical illnesses. 

Improved Memory and Mood

Involvement with music and music therapy has often been linked with neurological benefits for seniors and older adults who are diagnosed with dementia. Because music therapy can increase brain chemicals that induce positive feelings, a senior experiencing dementia can increase their positive emotions and find mental relief through music. By increasing an Alzheimer patient’s levels of melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and prolactin, music therapy elevates seniors’ moods and reduces stress and agitation. 

For any senior who has age-related memory issues, music’s ability to evoke and resurface memories can significantly increase a senior’s sense of wellbeing and quality of life. Along with bringing back memories, music can also improve cognitive processing speed and slow age-related cognitive decline. 

Fortunately, the progression of Alzheimer’s doesn’t affect the brain’s response to music. Because of this, songs from a patient’s childhood or early adulthood typically have positive effects on seniors with these diseases — even in advanced stages of dementia. 

Stroke Recovery

Active musical participation has shown to be an effective, rehabilitating activity for recovering stroke patients. 

In stroke rehabilitation, elements of music are used to enhance the recovery of motor and speech functions and to increase verbal memory. Additionally, music therapy has been shown to decrease anxiety and depression in patients experiencing somatic illnesses. 

an elderly woman listening to music on headphones
Music therapy can be helpful for physical rehabilitation, but it can also help seniors increase their general happiness and quality of life. 

Music and Happiness

In addition to having direct medical benefits for seniors, music can also increase the general happiness of older adults. 

One of the most effective ways to slow the effects of aging is to live an active lifestyle, and engaging with music and musical activities can help seniors stay active. Similarly, the National Institute on Aging recommends that seniors strive to learn new skills in order to keep active — and this can include learning to play an instrument. By making music, seniors can stimulate their brains and make sure that their days are filled with enjoyable, communal activities. 

Through music participation, seniors are also able to:

  • Increase their self-understanding
  • Become successful learners
  • Participate in rewarding and interesting experiences
  • Learn how to express themselves creatively

When all of these benefits are combined, seniors experience greater levels of happiness, maintain their mental and physical health, and observe an overall increase in quality of life. 

an electric piano with sheet music on its stand
Whether musical activities are keeping seniors active or helping to build community within assisted living locations, there’s no shortage of ways that music can be beneficial for seniors. 

There are many fun and exciting aspects of retirement and growing older. Although older adults have some things to look forward to — such as increased leisure time — seniors can also face challenges. Thankfully, involvement with musical activities and music therapy can enhance seniors’ quality of life, while helping reduce mental and physical discomforts. 

Annabeth Collis
Annabeth Collis is a writer from Buffalo, NY.
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