Music as a therapy to benefit health and behavior has been used for thousands of years, with references from ancient Greece and Greek philosophers, Plato and Aristotle. In the 20th century, after World Wars I and II, musicians, both amateur and professional, played in hospitals around the country for veterans wounded physically and emotionally. Physicians and nurses witnessed the positive effectiveness of music for their patients and began requesting hospitals hire musicians. The demand for musicians grew, and college curriculums were created with the first music therapy degree program established in 1944 at Michigan State University.
Studies have shown music benefits newborns to the elderly. In older adults with cognitive disorders, music therapy helps reduce agitation and aggressive behaviors, improving mood and cooperation with daily tasks. For elderly adults with depression, music therapy at home may have long-lasting positive effects – reducing blood pressure, heart and respiratory rate, and elevating a depressed mood. Music for older adults may significantly improve the quality of sleep, shorter time needed to fall asleep, less sleep disturbance, and less daytime dysfunction.
Singing, listening, or playing music will help maintain or increase levels of physical, mental, social, and emotional functioning. As a sensory and intellectual stimulation, music can help maintain or improve the overall quality of life for elderly adults. Familiar or preferred music evokes memories and influences mood, and music from one’s own culture may be most effective.
Music therapy can be beneficial in a variety of ways:
- Relieve boredom – As we age and become less physically active and isolated, we can become lost in silence. Impaired hearing may contribute to a sense of social loneliness and boredom.
- Motivate movement – Studies have shown even a minimal movement such as tapping a foot or clapping hands helps to release physical and mental stress, and promote joy.
- Evoke positive memories – Music is an emotional language, evoking personal memories we might otherwise not recall.
- Encourage happy thoughts – Music that promotes happy thoughts has a lingering effect in a person’s mind.
- Social skills – Increased social interaction with caregivers and others can encourage bonding, helping to alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.
Find what music resonates with your loved one, ask them about favorite music from the past or favorite artists and introduce their style of music into the daily routine. The most important thing is person-centered choices. The use of headphones may be a good way to listen for those with impaired hearing.
Access to free and unlimited music is available from YouTube, (https://www.youtube.com). You can create playlists and watch videos while listening, adding to the interaction aspect. Hits from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s are waiting for you. For radio listeners, iHeartRadio (https://www.iheart.com) is a great resource where you can create favorite stations and playlists. Enjoy!
Partners In Care is locally-owned and operated family business providing non-medical home-care in nine Northern California counties.