If you want to help improve the quality of life of older adults, think about including music in a senior’s daily list of activities. Family caregivers and health care providers can use music as an effective caregiving tool. Music, according to recent studies, does much more than just improve mood and lower symptoms of depression. Researchers are finding out that active participation in a musical activity has a positive impact on memory.

Benefits of music

  • Individuals under 80, who were in the early stages dementia, demonstrated improvements in working memory and executive function after participating in 10-week sessions of guided singing. The study was directed by the University of Helsinki, in Finland, and was published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. A summary review article was also published in Neuroscience News.
  • A study published in the Journal of Music Education Research International found that older adults benefited by participating in group piano instruction. The study’s findings suggest that group piano instruction enhanced verbal fluency, information processing speed and executive function in older adults. The study was directed by Jennifer A. Bugos, assistant professor of music at the University of South Florida.

Activities

Playing a musical instrument, participating in a short musical, dancing, singing with friends or taking part in a chorus may benefit seniors in more ways than one. Active participation and social interaction enhance quality of life and lessens isolation. The following are some fun activities to consider:

  • Singing along with friends or actively participating in a group chorus will benefit focus, organization and memory; singing with other individuals provides much needed social interaction.
  • Listening to music can also have a positive impact on older adults and family caregivers. Playing background music can be used to calm individuals who may be feeling anxious or stressed. Listening to music while exercising or walking may help improve exercise experiences for some adults.
  • Playing a favorite song or encouraging a dementia patient to sing along may help lower anxiety levels when changing and bathing.
  • Dancing to some favorite tunes encourages seniors to stay active.
  • Playing a musical instrument or participating in weekly music lessons are brain-healthy activities that provide long-term health benefits.

Playlists

Playlists provide seniors with an opportunity to reminisce and enjoy musical experiences and past events. Consider organizing a playlist with favorite songs, dance music or even family-sing-a-long recordings. When selecting and organizing playlists for an older adult under your care, include their favorite songs and musical preferences. You can put together different categories. The following are some examples: dance music, favorite rock or jazz bands, musicals, environmental sounds and even family sing-along recordings. Please remember that some songs and certain sounds may trigger different reactions, so be careful when making playlist selections.

Recording environmental sounds, such as the sound of waves rolling into the shoreline, or even the sound of rain or a waterfall can also be included in a playlist of environmental sounds.

If you would like to find out more about how music and technology may benefit people with dementia, check out the nonprofit organization MUSIC & MEMORY?. You can get plenty of information by visiting their website at http://musicandmemory.org/

Tips for a productive musical experience

Knowing a senior’s needs, along with the person’s likes and dislikes is crucial when selecting the right musical playlist, activity or type of musical venue.

If older relatives are showing hearing difficulties, please encourage them to visit a medical professional and request a hearing examination. If hearing aids are already being used, make sure these are in good working condition and fit correctly.

When attending musical presentations, consider the time of day musical events are being scheduled, so as not to interfere with necessary daily routines and schedules. If you want to attend a musical venue with a person who has dementia, consider attending daytime performances and matinees. Also, check the venue’s seating arrangements and restroom locations before the event. Never leave a person with dementia alone. If you cannot attend an entire program, seek the support from reliable family members or trained caregivers who can attend and accompany a loved to their favorite musical event.

We hope these tips are helpful. Encourage seniors and family members to share in brain-healthy activities that help promote social interaction.

Should you or a loved one need home health care services, call Senior Helpers of Orlando at (407) 628-4357. We will be glad to schedule a meeting and discuss our services, at your earliest convenience. Senior Helpers of Orlando provides home health care services and Alzheimer’s and dementia care in Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties.

 

Ana P. DeLane

Senior Helpers of Orlando Team Member

 

References and resources:                                          

Clinical and Demographic Factors Associated with the Cognitive and Emotional Efficacy of Regular Musical Activities in Dementia; Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (IOS) retrieved fromhttp://content.iospress.com/articles/journal-of-alzheimers-disease/jad150453

Singing Beneficial for Memory and Mood in Early Stages of Dementia; Neuroscience News; published Dec. 10, 2015; retrieved from http://neurosciencenews.com/singing-memory-dementia-neurology-3256/

The Benefits of Music Instruction on Processing Speed, Verbal Fluency, and Cognitive Control in Aging; Jennifer A. Bugos University of South Florida; Music Education Research International, Volume 4; published 2010; retrieved from http://cmer.arts.usf.edu/content/articlefiles/3122-MERI04pp1-9.pdf

MUSIC & MEMORY?; retrieve from http://musicandmemory.org/

 




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