Music has the amazing capacity to alter for the better the way we are feeling at any given time. Familiar tunes can bring cheer, evoke memories, and provide comfort – all of which can contribute to a positive sense of wellbeing.
Recent research has found that music in its various forms can improve both a person’s physical health and mental wellbeing, and for older adults it can play an important role in helping tackle a range of age-related problems such as depression, isolation, stress, chronic pain and even memory impairment.
For older people living in residential care homes, the benefits that music brings can be profound.
1. Reduce stress and anxiety
Listening to your favourite music can have a very calming effect. By slowing the heart rate and reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, music can help people relax, reducing stress /agitation and anxiety, bringing comfort and aiding good sleep. and increasing a feeling of general wellbeing.
2. Provide an enjoyable activity to boost confidence and self-esteem
Listening and singing along to well known songs can evoke verbal and emotional memories while learning new songs can help boost cognitive skills stretch existing skills. Both can help stimulate and engage, providing an important boost to confidence and self-esteem.
For people living with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, spoken language can become increasingly difficult as their symptoms develop, making it a challenge to communicate their needs. The areas of the brain associated with music however remain responsive for longer than those responsible for speech, so even after people can no longer express themselves verbally, singing and responding to music provides an excellent channel of communication.
3. Increase engagement and social activity
Music provides an opportunity for bringing people together. This could be on a simple one to one basis listening and singing along to a person’s favourite songs, or it could take the form of a group activity involving a few, or indeed many, people.
Musical activity often encourages people to communicate both verbally and through body language and gesture, and can play an important role in alleviating feelings of loneliness and isolation.
4. Inspire movement
Playing music can motivate people to get moving, and as we all know, exercise is good for you! So whether it’s getting on your feet and dancing along to the music, doing a spot of chair dancing, clapping along, or even simply tapping your toes, moving to the music is an enjoyable way to encourage some gentle exercise.
5. Tackle boredom and improve mood
Music provides a great range of activities that can easily be tailored to the needs, and individual preferences, of each participant. Listening to live performances, singing along to personal playlists, playing an instrument or taking part in an organised music therapy session all provide enjoyable and non-threatening activities that can be enjoyed by all.