The Miracle of Music

May 31, 2013

I love music! It brings me up if I’m feeling down, soothes me if I’m feeling anxious and, best of all, makes a party even more fun. If I’m cleaning the house, blasting that radio makes the time fly by. If I’m working on a tedious task, music helps me focus. Some songs bring back great memories and some not so great memories. But mostly, music makes me feel good.

Music has been shown to improve mood, decrease anxiety, improve cognitive functioning and allow for better movement or coordination. Our brains track and store music throughout our lives; music from the young adult years, 18 to 25 years old, generally has the greatest impact on memory. When we listen to music from this time in our lives it can generate a greater response.

How can we use the power of music to help our elders? Talk to your elder about their favorite music. They may surprise you with what they like or dislike. Find a radio station that plays their preferred type of music or put together a play list of favorite tunes. Encourage them to listen to music throughout the day, rhythmic music while exercising or soothing music when napping.

Elders, even those with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, are able to tap into the part of the brain that stores music because little cognitive functioning is required in recalling that music. While this disease can rob a person of the ability to have a conversation or show affection they can remain able to move to a rhythmic beat.

Even unfamiliar music is beneficial in calming and relaxation exercises. Sensory overload can lead to confusion and agitation in those elders with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Singing, dancing, and other music activities can help them focus their attention and, as a result, decrease the agitated behaviors.

So, what can we do?

  • Dance!
  • Listen to favorite music from your elder’s era.
  • Help your elder put together a playlist of favorite songs.
  • Sing together.
  • Singing or listening to music when walking with your elder will help improve balance and gait.
  • If your elder become agitated at night (sundowners) try soothing, relaxing music.
  • Check out the website www.musicandmemory.org for information about using music to improve the life of your elder (and you).

 

 

 

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