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music is healthy for older adults

Why Music Is Healthy For Older Adults

by Martha Simmonds
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We tend to experience music most intensely in our teens and early twenties when the world appears to be a promising place full of possibilities and adventures.

At this age, we feel that songs may teach us important lessons about love and heartbreak, hope and fear, and reveal the true nature of reality—the “sense sublime,” wrote the Romantic poet William Wordsworth, “of something far more deeply interfused”.

Sounds romantic, doesn’t it? Sounds a bit extreme? Well, it is. When we’re young, we’re more romantic and extreme in our thoughts and feelings than when we’re old. And, in our older years, we may look back on the way our younger selves experienced music with a mix of embarrassment and nostalgia.

Music Always Matters

But that’s not to say that, as we age, music matters to us less and less. That’s not true at all. Music always matters.

Although, in our younger years, we experienced music more intensely, in our older years we develop a deeper appreciation for music, not only the music we enjoyed in our youth but also new music.

We may no longer feel that music will teach us unforgettable lessons about ourselves and the universe, but that’s because our taste becomes subtler and more refined, just as it does for food.

More Than Enjoyment

There’s a reason why music therapy is redefining senior living. Listening to music in our older years is about more than enjoyment. It’s about our overall well-being and quality of life.

The mental benefits of listening to music include:

  • Improves memory
  • Enhances mood
  • Reduces and even prevents cognitive decline, including dementia

The physical benefits of listening to music include:

  • Reduces recovery time
  • Helps manage or lessen the severity of pain
  • Improves quality of sleep

Listening to music also has social benefits for older adults. Music brings people together, and not only through dancing, concerts, choirs, and jam sessions. Listening to music improves speech and cognition, which makes it easier and more enjoyable to spend time with other people. Listening to music also:

  • Increases self-esteem
  • Encourages self-expression
  • Lessens the force of fear or anxiety
  • Reduces stress levels

Not only that, but listening to music encourages older adults to be more physically active. It makes us better at exercising. When people of all ages listen to music, they run faster, swim more laps, bike longer, and lift heavier weights—often without even realizing it. Listening to music does this, in part, by:

  • Distracting us from fatigue and pain
  • Increasing our endurance
  • Elevating our mood
  • Reducing perceived effort
  • Promoting metabolic efficiency

The Bottom Line

As we age and life gets busier, and responsibilities pile up, we may have less and less time for music. Fortunately, however, you can listen to music while doing other things. You can listen to music when you cook, drive, and take the bus or subway. You can listen to music when you clean or take a shower.

That may not sound like much (pun intended), but music that sounds good to your ears is good for your health.

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