Music and Memory for the Elderly

Seniors can really benefit from music. There are so many restrictions the elderly population often has due to slower movement, brain activity slowdown and other chronic conditions related to aging, but music never changes. In fact, from birth til death (so long as one does not become deaf) people can really benefit from music without restrictions. This was put quite succinctly by director of the Elisabeth Prentiss Bereavement Center for Hospice of the Western Reserve, who said: “From lullabies to funeral songs, music is a part of our lives from the moment we enter the world, until the moment we leave it.” She added that: “Music therapy is all about the intentional use of music to bring about a particular change; whether that change is therapeutic, emotional or spiritual.”

Then there is Meaghan Beck, the music therapist who works in hospice care. In her works she seeks to treat the “physiological, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of her geriatric patients.” By listening to – and in some cases, creating – music, the elderly who work with Beck are given a “portal into expression that often escapes them.” In such cases, music is so much more than entertainment; it’s actually caregiving.

Sometimes songs stir a musical memory of the past. So, as activities director at Willowbrooke Court Retirement Home, Stephanie Kolbes noted, with cases by which the residents cannot remember activities they engaged in a week ago, or their granddaughter’s birthday, they will be able to recall – in much detail – the song they first danced with their partner to. In addition, those who have dementia or often display aggressive behavior will “find solace during musical performances,” whereby that is not the case in almost anything else.

In a Fact Sheet compiled by The Music Therapy Center of California, it was noted that music therapy can be great for the following issues, which are often negatively impacted by aging issues. These include: speech, cognitive, physical/motor skills, social/emotional issues and more. furthermore, the author of the paper Julie Guy pointed out that music therapy can actually be cost effective for the health industry in that it: “addresses a myriad of goal areas including emotional, physical, social and cognitive. In contrast to other therapies or programs, music therapy can reduce costs by addressing all areas of functioning, as described previously. Another way music therapy has shown to be cost effective is by decreasing pain thus resulting in reduced pharmaceutical expenses.”

So, music therapy or just evening bringing musical joy to the elderly is a great way of engaging with seniors in an enjoyable manner.