How Music Can Be Used as Therapy for SeniorsBrandermill Woods independent living angle

How Music Can Be Used as Therapy for Seniors

Monday, May 20, 2024

Music plays a massive role in our everyday lives. Sharing our favorite songs helps us connect with others and triggers fond memories to pass down to younger generations. Listening to music also presents therapeutic benefits for seniors, improving physical, emotional, and cognitive health. 

At Brandermill Woods, we recognize the impact of music therapy and incorporate music-related activities into our monthly events calendar, particularly for residents in our memory care community, The Holly Inn. Through dancing, sing-alongs, and activities including our Java Music Club, seniors can reap the multiple therapeutic benefits of listening to music and enjoy an enhanced quality of life.

Cognitive Enhancement

For seniors with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, music can enhance cognitive functions, resulting in a happier, more fulfilling life. A recent study found that seniors who listened to some of their favorite songs experienced increased connectivity in the brain.

By bridging the gap between the brain's auditory and reward systems, music helps older adults feel more motivated, which can increase productivity, concentration, attention, and memory. Music-related activities also encourage seniors to engage with movement, vocalization, and rhythmic patterns, promoting brain plasticity. 

These combined benefits can slow cognitive decline and help seniors boost their problem-solving, language, and creative abilities. Additionally, music can trigger memories of past experiences, which benefits those with cognitive impairments. 

Emotional Impact

Music can evoke strong emotions and create a sense of nostalgia, reminding you of significant people, places, and experiences. Listening to music that makes you feel calm, relaxed, or happy can help you adjust to new settings or surroundings. It can also alleviate negative symptoms associated with Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. 

For example, common dementia symptoms include confusion, depression, anxiety, irritation, and mood swings. Listening to a familiar or favorite song eases unpleasant emotions and boosts mood, self-esteem, and comfort. It can also reduce stress, helping you relax and concentrate on other soothing activities you enjoy, such as going for a walk, painting, or journaling. 

At Brandermill Woods, we acknowledge that memory loss affects each person differently, which is why we offer individualized recreational therapy programs as a memory care service. This allows residents to engage in therapeutic activities, including listening to music, that align with their needs and interests to reduce negative symptoms.

Social Connections

Older adults are at an increased risk of loneliness and social isolation, raising their chance of developing dementia and other health conditions. Moving to a senior living community can alleviate this concern, but some seniors may still struggle to make friends and fully integrate into community life. Incorporating music into social activities can help residents foster social connections. 

Playing songs that most residents remember from their younger years stirs a sense of nostalgia that may encourage them to share fond memories. This helps conversations occur naturally, aiding seniors in forming connections with others who share similar interests. 

It's best to play music during social activities that don't involve too much concentration or intellectual problem-solving to avoid frustrating residents. Examples include crafts, socials, and sports, such as kickball or bowling. Brandermill Woods also offers support groups for memory care residents to further promote socialization.

Communication Skills

As cognitive disorders progress, some individuals lose their ability to communicate or express their thoughts clearly. According to the Pacific Neuroscience Institute, music therapy can help seniors with dementia express themselves through song.

Over time, exposure to music helps older adults tune in to neural pathways that experience heavy usage while they're singing or humming, improving their everyday speech. Since music can also alter and inspire mood, seniors can use certain songs to express how they're feeling or want to feel. For example, upbeat music creates a productive, high-energy mood, while soothing, slow tempos promote a relaxed vibe.

Additionally, asking seniors to make their own music by playing instruments or singing can help them express complicated emotions or feelings they struggle to communicate with regular speech. This can prevent frustration or agitation and help them form closer bonds with their loved ones.

Schedule a Visit With Brandermill Woods

At Brandermill Woods, we offer a wide range of activities, including music therapy, exercise classes, art, and trivia, to accommodate every care level. Whether you're seeking the active lifestyle of Independent Living or compassionate medical support found in Skilled Nursing Care, our community provides an environment that helps every individual successfully navigate the aging process. 

If you're looking for a community to support you through every life change, Brandermill Woods can help. Reach out today by calling (804) 621-7328 to schedule an in-person visit and learn more about our services.