How music benefits health and happiness in those who are aging and their caregivers
by Megan Leitzell, public relations intern
Whether it is heard on the radio, as background in a film or performed live, music can encourage positive feelings, tell a story and even promote better health. Although it is good for all ages, music can particularly help keep an aging brain and body healthy.
The powerful field of music therapy uses music interventions to accomplish individualized goals while building therapeutic relationships. Exposure to music therapy can keep the brain healthy and exercised, giving the benefits of better memory, mental sharpness and even happiness, according to the American Music Therapy Association.
“Music provides very specific therapeutic benefits for older adults, supported by growing research in the areas of Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia,” Ann Dinsmore, music therapy supervisor at Masonic Village at Elizabethtown, said. “Music acts as a motivator; it stimulates and relaxes, and it triggers many memories. When other functions have failed people, music still provides an outlet for expression.”
First established in collaboration with Elizabethtown College and with a resident donation, the Masonic Village Music Therapy Department recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. The five certified music therapists in the department work closely with students and volunteers of all ages to promote wellness for residents each day through the therapeutic use of music. Home caregivers can also use music therapeutically.
Dinsmore suggests the following ways that caregivers can use music to benefit their loved ones:
- Find and play music that will bring back positive memories for them, taking into consideration their preferences, which are usually established between the ages of 15 and 30, and their life experiences.
- Active music making through playing with instruments, household objects or anything that makes an interesting sound can open a new avenue for creativity.
- Singing, humming or chanting along with music can help with relaxation and breathing.
- Conducting with arms, fingers or a “baton” while following the beat of the music engages and increases the oxygen level to the brain.
- Use musical dynamics, such as music with soft tones, constant harmonies or music with nature sounds to encourage relaxation and deep breathing meditation.
- Use music for stretching and exercising, such as dancing, foot tapping and arm movements. Change tempos based on moods, tolerance and energy levels when you begin, and be sure to create “warm up” and “cool down” exercises before and after each session.
- It is never too late to learn or relearn an instrument or singing technique. Keep the brain active by uncovering a vocal score or sitting down at a keyboard to practice and learn music again, or for the first time.
The incorporation of music therapy techniques provides benefits for the caregiver as well as the recipient. The caregiver can enjoy relaxation while sharing common experiences and creativity with loved ones.