Music is a pleasurable, powerful presence in many people’s lives. A good song can lift your mood, rekindle a memory and make your day better. Seniors and music are an especially important combination, as all can benefit, from those who are healthy and active to those with cognitive challenges.
Music therapy is also a way to meet your senior needs for movement and connection in a satisfying way.
Find out more about the benefits of listening to music, some of common music therapy techniques and ways for seniors to find their favorite music.
What is Music Therapy for Seniors?
A music therapy session for seniors can be formal or informal and can include anything from listening to music, composing a song, engaging in music or song improvisation or just drumming or clapping along.
Music therapy is delivered in two main ways: active or receptive. Here is how they work:
Active Music Therapy
This method is interactive, with playing instruments, dancing or singing. This encourages movement and stimulation that can be beneficial for physical health.
Receptive Music Therapy
This method encourages mindful listening to music, with specially selected music, whether live or recorded. The music selected for seniors will often reflect their culture, generation and experiences, both personal and shared.
How Can Music Help Senior Health?
A 2022 study cited by the National Institutes of Health indicates that music can improve the quality of life and can increase creativity and social interaction in seniors. For seniors with chronic health issues and depression, music can improve your health.
Here are some of the beneficial side effects of music for seniors:
Calm – Songs with distinct instruments, lyrics, rhythms and themes can help seniors relax. Songs can slow your heart rate and lower the level of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.
Communication – Seniors who can no longer verbally communicate can hum or move their hands along to the music. That can encourage them to express their feelings and communicate joy when it is otherwise difficult to do so.
Memory – Music can encourage seniors to memorize patterns, rhythms and words. Familiar songs can also trigger pleasurable memories of beloved people and places.
Mood – Energetic, joyful music can lift people out of depression, helping them cope with fear, hopelessness and loneliness. Music can help occupy the minds of the depressed, helping them relax and de-stress.
Movement – Music and movement is important for seniors. Some music classes can encourage movement and exercise. This can range from clapping to moving to dancing. Even those who are sedentary can join in with movement.
Socialization – Music breaks down barriers and can fight back against social anxiety. With music, either as an organized activity or hobby, seniors can come together and find comfort and joy together.
>> Read “The Best Healthy Hobbies for Seniors”
Where Seniors Can Find Music
There are many ways to access music that you can enjoy, from checking out CDs or DVDs from the library to purchasing from music stores, thrift stores or used media stores.
Streaming apps can be the easiest way to find music that will interest seniors, with curated playlists already available, and with some opportunity to create new playlists.
Here are some of the most popular streaming music sources, which will work on a computer, tablet, smartphone or even a smart television.
Amazon Music has hundreds of free playlists and podcasts, and features “stations” of ad-free music for subscribers. Amazon offers Free, Prime and Unlimited editions, levels, with various features at each level.
Apple Music features curated playlists and links to radio stations. Apple Music, like most streaming services, leans heavily on current artists and music, but nostalgic playlists are available with a little searching. Apple Music offers one month free then charges afterward.
Idagio is the only streaming service exclusively for classical music. Idagio offers a free level for listening, along with a subscription service without ads and a second level that will let you access live and archived concerts.
iHeart used to only feature radio stations, but now includes other streaming music lists and podcasts. The service is free, but contains ads.
Pandora asks you what you like and then builds playlists around that. The lists get more customized as you listen. You can also find lists built around artists and music styles. Pandora has free and paid levels, which offer ad-free listening and the ability to further customize playlists.
SiriusXM used to be a satellite streaming service for automobiles, but now is available as an app, playable on phones, computers and smart TVs. It features dozens of “stations” themed to genres, artists and decades. Non-music stations are also featured, all for a subscription fee.
Spotify features music and podcasts of all styles. You can listen to playlists put together by Spotify, by other listeners, or playlists they can put together yourself. Spotify offers a free level, with ads, and a subscription without ads.
YouTube Music has custom playlists and others put together by other listeners. Oldies playlists can be found with a little searching. YouTube Music starts out free but then charges per month.
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Live Joyfully at a Senior Lifestyle Community
Senior Lifestyle communities feature music as part of their programming, from music appreciation to creating music to dancing to singing. With plenty to do to stimulate conversation and community, we help you live a carefree lifestyle.