Senior Living Blog

The Health Benefits of Music

September 4, 2020

“Where words fail, music speaks,” said the 19th century Danish storyteller Hans Christian Andersen. Human expression would certainly be poorer without music. But the benefits of music go well beyond enjoyment. Scientists are finding more and more health benefits we gain from music, beginning at birth and lasting through the end of our lives. Here are just a few documented benefits of music:

Music connects us with others. Experts say our culture is experiencing an “epidemic of loneliness” – and it is exacerbated by COVID-related isolation. Music is a great tool for creating bonds among people, cutting across backgrounds, abilities and generations. Imaging shows that when a group of people perform or listen to music together, their brains show coordinated neurological responses to the rhythms and mood, resulting in a feeling of connection and togetherness.

Making music is great exercise for the brain. Neurologists tell us that following and interpreting the melody, anticipating patterns and making sense of a piece of music gives the brain a good workout. Said Emory University researcher Brenda Hanna-Pladdy, “Musical activity throughout life may serve as a challenging cognitive exercise, making your brain fitter and more capable of accommodating the challenges of aging.”

Music can be a powerful tool for people with memory loss. Music is stored differently in the brain than is speech, so it can bring forth recollections that mere words cannot. The cognitive and emotional effects of music help people with dementia connect not only with their own memories, but also with other people and the world around them. Music also reduces agitation and anxiety, and improves their sleep.

It can promote stroke recovery. The American Heart Association reports that stroke survivors experience enhanced improvements in balance and strength when they listen to music during rehabilitation sessions. Just as is the case with memory loss, music may help patients access different part of the brain that are involved in movement and coordination. Music also lessens depression among stroke survivors.

These aren’t by any means the only benefits we stand to gain by adding more music to our lives. Why not find more opportunities to both experience and create music?

Categories: Healthy Aging