Music therapy is an underutilized but powerful form of therapy that offers many benefits, especially for our elders. You may think of music therapy as simple listening sessions, and it can certainly take that form, but there are many other ways to experience music therapy. You can hold sing-alongs, music lessons or refreshers, or songwriting sessions. Elders who have musical talents already can even perform solo if they like.
The Benefits of Music Therapy
Music therapy has shown great promise in the treatment of dementia and Alzheimer’s, but the truth is that music therapy has numerous benefits for all seniors, including:
Music from your parent’s childhood or teen years can have special resonance with them, bringing long-hidden memories up to the surface of their mind. You can also explore music played at their wedding or other special events.
Expressing religious, patriotic, or familial feelings
Music that is special to a person’s religion, country, or family can provide them with comfort. If one of these institutions is particularly important to them, you can use those songs to draw them into the therapy.
Increasing self-esteem and socialization
It’s easy to connect with other people over music, so music therapy can be a good avenue through which you parent can socialize. Performing or participating in the music can provide a boost to confidence and remind your parent that they can still have fun and entertain other people.
Providing a calm environment
Nature sounds or gentle classical music can help calm anxious or stressed elders. Music therapy can also act as a great distraction for anyone who may be caught in a cycle of negative thoughts. Up-beat music can be particularly effective at this.
Marking special occasions
Holidays and birthdays can have renewed energy when they incorporate music therapy. When possible, focus on music that would be played during the holidays in your parent’s youth or middle-age.
Motivating movement and speech
Playing an instrument, or simply swaying to the music is great for those who have mobility issues. Singing can help those with speech problems, or who seem reluctant to speak.
Tips for Conducting Music Therapy
Ask ahead of time if the participant has any experience with music – from singing to playing an instrument – or specific musical preferences. Then you can plan for musical activities that take advantage of their talents. Or, you can arrange to host music centered on a decade or genre.
If you’re planning a sing-along, provide light weight instruments that are easy for elders to hold or use. The triangle, bells, small drums, and maracas are all great options. If instruments are in short supply, consider encouraging singing, or whistling.
It can also be worthwhile to ask a band or school group to perform. They may have a catalog of favorites, or you could ask them ahead of time to prepare your parent’s favorites.
Music therapy is a growing field that’s being used to treat a variety of conditions – from anxiety and depression to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Consider tapping into the power of music to enrich the lives of the seniors you care for. Give the care managers at Aging Life Network a call. We’re can help you bring more music into your senior’s life.