Music therapy uses music to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs. Music can benefit people of all ages, which is one reason why music therapy is sometimes offered for residents of senior living communities.
When it comes to some age-related challenges like chronic pain, cognitive decline, and physical isolation, music therapy can benefit seniors by providing a creative outlet, a social experience, and a form of support for cognitive challenges. In fact, listening to music is just one of the fun activities that can help support memory.
What Is Music Therapy?
Music therapy is a non-pharmacological therapy that uses music as a rehabilitation tool for helping seniors. There are two types of music therapy:
- Active music therapy involves either playing an instrument, singing, or dancing and encourages physical stimulation that can benefit physical health.
- Receptive music therapy involves listening to recorded or live music. The choice of music or songs often reflects personal experiences and culture.
During a music therapy session, a music therapist may use activities from one or both types, such as playing music, singing, composing songs, or engaging in musical improvisation, to address specific therapeutic goals. For example, music therapy can help improve relaxation, reduce anxiety, and promote positive emotions.
Benefits of Music Therapy for Seniors
Music therapy is a versatile therapy implemented in various settings, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, senior communities, schools, and community centers. It can help address a wide range of physical and mental health problems and conditions.
Physical Health Benefits
Music therapy can help seniors improve their physical health by encouraging movement and exercise. Movement is especially beneficial for seniors with mobility issues or chronic conditions.
Walking, clapping, dancing, or stretching along with the right music can encourage and improve the following:
- Heart and cardiovascular health
- Muscle strength
- Bone density
- Balance and coordination
Music therapy can help ease pain, decrease anxiety, and support relaxation. Whether you’re playing or listening to music, it can take attention away from pain.
Music therapy can also:
- Help improve breathing
- Help you release body tension
- Lift your mood
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your heart rate
- Help with muscle relaxation
Mental Health Benefits
Dementia is common in older adults and often leads to deterioration in cognitive function. While this can significantly impact older adults’ quality of life, music therapy can improve mental health by helping those with dementia express themselves.
For those experiencing verbal communication difficulties, listening to music can improve their ability to communicate and express their feelings in a relaxed environment. Music therapists can use musical cues and gestures to help seniors communicate and connect with others.
Depression is one of the psychological changes that people with dementia can experience. Music therapy can improve mood and help seniors feel happier and more positive. Different types of music can create different moods—tranquil music can help people feel calm and fast-paced music can boost spirits.
The mood-boosting effects of music can also be beneficial for seniors dealing with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Learning a new instrument or participating in a music group can also provide a sense of achievement and boost self-esteem.
Music for Dementia & Alzheimer’s
Many people create memories and associations with music throughout their life. They may link specific songs, artists, or types of music with certain milestones and events.
Because dementia affects cognitive abilities and memory loss, seniors with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease (the most common type of dementia) can use music therapy to help access past experiences and memories. It can help them maintain their identity with a firm hold on reality and can boost their attention and concentration.
With no cure for dementia and Alzheimer’s, music therapy can provide a way to improve the quality of life of affected individuals by improving cognitive function and can help reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and agitation.
Increase Social Engagement
Music therapy can provide seniors with a safe and supportive space to engage in social activities and connect with others. It helps build relationships and develop social skills, which can make it a valuable tool for reducing feelings of social isolation and improving overall well-being.
Music Therapy for Optimal Senior Living
Music therapy is a unique form of therapy that provides seniors with an alternative and creative way to address their physical and mental challenges. It offers a holistic approach to treatment, helping individuals achieve physical, emotional, cognitive, and social goals for optimal living through the power of music.
Schedule a tour to learn more about how our programs can help residents enjoy life at Bentley Commons at Bedford.