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Music Therapy: Food for the Soul

Music can have an effect on your body, mind and soul; whether it is the rhythm or melody it has a way of taking over your being and transporting you somewhere else.  Listening to music can help relax you, it can help ease pain, it can spark a memory, and it can also give you something to dance to, or even relate to. Music has the ability to stimulate more parts of the brain than any other human function. Music can be subjective because even though one person thinks a song is sad another could feel a sense of relief and excitement from it. Because music taps on so many different variables it is something that is very beneficial for older adults, it can be a type of therapy.

The majority of adults between the ages of 65 and 85 have at least one chronic condition, whether it is heart disease, arthritis, cancer or diabetes and so on.  That population can also experience a variety of age-related changes to their physical, mental and emotional well-being. For older adults they have access to a radio, tape player, television, DVD player and even possibly an old record player. Since older adults have access to music there are a lot of ways to promote better physical and mental health such as:

  • Relieving boredom
  • Motivating movement
  • Rekindling positive memories
  • Shifting negative thinking patterns
  • Calming nervousness
  • Encouraging happy thoughts
  • Promoting social interaction

Those are just a few ways that could help an older adult have more fun, give them a hobby or even turn their anxiety and depression into a positive. Music can increase bonding with others, cooperation with members or even medical staff. By connecting with others in a meaningful way many can alleviate feelings of isolation and loneliness.  There are some studies that show group bonding and interactions with others may be more important in determining our overall health than any other health restriction such as diet, exercise or our genes. Music therapy can also help older adults with issues such as:

  • Cognitive Skills: Can help process their thoughts and maintain memories. Music gets associated with past events and a song could evoke a memory even many years after that event. For people with dementia music from their childhood or young adult years has been proven to be helpful in obtaining positive response and connection, even when the older adult cannot communicate.
  • Speech Skills: Music therapy has been proven to help older adults answer questions, make decisions, and speak clearer. It can help slow deterioration of speech and language skills in dementia patients. Even if they cannot talk they can hum or sing their favorite song.
  • Stress Reduction: Some caregivers and family members have a hard time managing their aging loved ones stress and agitation. Playing music they enjoy can help relax and ease the aggressive behaviors. Slow songs like ballads or lullabies can help prepare your loved one for bed or deal with changes to their routines.
  • Physical Skills: Music can inspire movement in older adults. With music comes dancing. Music and dancing work hand in hand to promote coordination, range of motion and can help with walking and endurance. Even if your loved one is not mobile, music can inspire toe tapping, clapping, which then gets the blood flowing again.
  • Social Skills: Increased social interaction with caregivers and others is another benefit music therapy can offer an older adult. It encourages bonding with others, which in turn can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. Music therapy sessions can be a way for family members to spend meaningful time together in a creative, caring and relaxing way.

The key is finding the music that resonates with your loved one. It would give you and a loved one a way to talk about their favorite musicians and songs from their past, not only will it help them but it will help you get to know that person more and bond over music. Sometimes music is the only things that gets your mind off of everything else, music is like food for your soul, so try this out with a family member or loved one.