Music is one of the most powerful therapeutic tools in to help mitigate the effects and impact of depression, anxiety disorders, stress, loneliness, and isolation in older adults

“Music is also good for seniors during the pandemic. When the government provided instructions to stay home during this pandemic, the seniors are also affected because they can no longer go out to get some air and do outdoor activities they used to enjoy. This is where music can play an important role”, says Dr J Anish Anand, Consultant Internal Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Hyderabad. 

Pandemic has caused  several issues in the elderly, especially anxiety and depression. Also, due to lack of activity health issues like obesity & weight gain have increased the risk of diseases like diabetes and hypertension. “Music is art and activity, whose method is sound. In many cultures, music is an important part of people’s life, as it plays a key role in entertainment, religion, and ceremonies,” says Dr Anand.

Scientific study of music is going on in brain-based mechanisms involved in the cognitive processes underlying music. These behaviours include listening, performing, composing, reading, writing, and ancillary activities. It is also increasingly concerned with the brain basis for musical aesthetics and musical emotion.

Music therapy is an interpersonal process in which a trained therapist uses music to help patients improve or maintain their health. In some instances, the patient’s needs are addressed directly through music. Music therapy is used with individuals of all ages  especially in those with psychiatric disorders, medical problems, physical disabilities, sensory impairments, developmental disabilities, substance abuse issues, communication disorders, interpersonal problems, and aging” he adds. 

The relationship between music and the elderly can be beneficial both as a form of stress reliever and to aid in cognitive abilities. Studies have shown that music activities for the elderly provide comfort and relief to seniors with Alzheimers and dementia. “Listening to music can have strong effects on people’s moods, thinking, and even their physiology. Emotions and memory are linked, and because music is charged emotionally, it can trigger past memories, good and bad,” says Dr Anand. 

Music Therapy Activities for the Elderly

Activities can include:

Playing music around the house

Taking dance lessons for exercise

Attending a concert to encourage socialization

Playing musical chairs with younger children

Benefits of Music for the Elderly

Music can help promote health and wellness while eliciting positive memories and reactions in older adults. An elderly person can benefit from music in the following ways:

  1. Relieves depression and anxiety

Music can elevate mood and reduce anxiety especially in elder

2. In exercise

Increases coordination and mobility

Provides motivation for walking, running, dancing, and stretching

3. Social interaction

Improves cognition and speech

Encourages self-expression

Increases self-esteem

Dispels anxiety, tension, and fear

 4. overall health

Reduces pain and recovery time

Increases relaxation

Allows a better night’s sleep

Enhances mood

5. Improves memory

Assists in memory recall

Provides a communicative structure

The evidence for music therapy’s benefits- Music as medicine and healing power of vibration especially in elderly and sick

A growing body of research shows that music therapy helps improve medical outcomes and quality of life. 

Restoring lost speech- Music therapy can help people who are recovering from a stroke or traumatic brain injury that has damaged the left-brain region responsible for speech. Since singing ability originates in the right side of the brain, people can work around the injury to the left side of their brain by first singing their thoughts and then gradually dropping the melody.

Reducing side effects of cancer therapy- Listening to music reduces anxiety associated with chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It can also quell nausea and vomiting for patients receiving chemotherapy.

Helping with physical therapy and rehabilitation- If you exercise to a playlist, you’ve probably noticed that music helps you stick to your routine..

Aiding pain relief- Music therapy has been tested in a variety of patients, ranging from those with intense short-term pain to those with chronic pain from arthritis. Over all, music therapy decreases pain perception, reduces the amount of pain medication needed, helps relieve depression in pain patients, and gives them a sense of better control over their pain.

Improving quality of life for people with dementia- Since the ability to engage with music remains intact late into the disease process, music therapy can help to evoke memories, reduce agitation, assist communication, and improve physical coordination.

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