Where words fail, music speaks.” ― Hans Christian Andersen

We’ve all had the experience of hearing a favorite song or melody that lifts our spirits. Music can have mental and physical benefits for people of all ages, and can play an important role in improving the quality of life for seniors. Research has shown that music can:

  • reduce pain
  • lower blood pressure
  • promote relaxation
  • improve sleep quality
  • increase mental alertness and memory
  • Improve mood
  • decrease anxiety

Playing a musical instrument or listening to favorite songs can even help people recover more quickly from surgery.

For seniors with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, music they find enjoyable and soothing may help reduce restlessness and agitation. When other forms of communication become difficult, people in the later stages of dementia may still be able to tap to a beat and sing along to a familiar tune. Music can trigger memories, both positive and negative, and help people recall significant events in their lives. Songs from childhood or early adulthood tend to have the most positive effects.

Music therapy can involve working with a trained and accredited music therapist, or it may be as simple and informal as selecting songs for a senior sing-along group or a playlist for a person with dementia. Fast, lively music can encourage movement, clapping and dancing, while slower songs can promote a calm mood.

The ease of compiling songs on IPods and other devices offers more choices than ever before when it comes to creating a musical library for an older adult. Ideally the older adult can provide input on the song selection but if not, try old favorites, pop, swing, folk, hymns, and big band tunes from the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s. Well-loved, familiar songs can reawaken memories, ease stress, and promote positive interactions with others.