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The Benefits of Music for Aging Adults

There’s no denying that music has amazing power. Whether it’s to make us laugh, cry, bring us together or move us in other ways, music across the world and throughout history has had a way of stirring our souls. Recently, it’s been discovered that music can do more than just move us emotionally.

“Music stimulates the brain in a unique way,” says Greg Lazzaro, Life Enrichment Director of Waterstone at the Circle and Board-Certified Music Therapist. “Music therapy research indicates that listening to or playing music can help keep your brain engaged and alert throughout the aging process. Music has also been shown to reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, reduce pain levels and improve memory, mood and sleep quality.”

“At Waterstone at the Circle, we understand that music is an essential and powerful aspect of our lives, which is why we incorporate it into our programming for residents,” says Greg. “Music moves all generations, and it has particular and profound benefits for seniors, helping keep them active and independent. Plus, playing a musical instrument provides a fun opportunity for self-expression.” 

How Music Helps Our Brains As We Age

When you listen to music, much more is happening than simply enjoying a tune. Because music is mathematical and structural, it is a total brain workout that enhances our whole brain – and our whole body. Here are just some of the other ways in which music helps our brains as we age.

It improves and enhances memory. 

Remember the song that you and your spouse danced to at your wedding? Or the favorite song you played over and over when you were a kid? We imagine that even just the merest thought of that music evokes strong memories. That’s because music becomes linked to memories in a variety of areas in our brain that remains generally unaffected by time and even diseases like Alzheimer’s. According to a study published by the Oxford University JournalCerebral Cortex, music causes a sort of automatic recall much like scent does.

It improves overall health. 

While passive participation (aka listening) helps improve memory, active participation in music provides many other health benefits for seniors. Some of these include:

  • Reducing pain and stress levels
  • Better recovery from illness, particularly strokes
  • A lowered risk of depression
  • Reduced blood pressure and better heart health
  • A better immune system

“Music is often a great motivator to exercise,” says Greg. “The tempo and rhythm of the music help to increase motivation. Plus, music makes exercising more fun!” Additionally, instrument playing, such as pushing piano keys or strumming a guitar can improve fine and gross motor skills.

It leads to a greater sense of happiness. 

Music has been a way for people to connect and form communities for ages (literally). Since humans are social beings, it should come as no surprise that making music together helps boost our overall happiness. Playing or participating in music as a group helps seniors learn from others, socialize and stay physically active. 

Music and Dementia

We would be remiss to not mention the benefits that music has for those with cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. As mentioned above, music can evoke memories incredibly well – even seniors with advanced stage dementia can recall memories and connect with others through a musical medium. 

“Music is stored in many different areas of the brain,” says Greg. “And because Alzheimer’s does not always reach every area of the brain where music is stored, a person’s musical memory is often not affected.”

There are many stories of individuals with dementia who are unresponsive and unable to communicate, but when music from their past is played, they are able to sing, keep tempo and sometimes even regain the ability to communicate and interact for some time. Music therapy has become standard in memory care communities for that reason. 

Music and Parkinson’s Disease 

Music therapy has also been proven to help seniors affected by Parkinson’s disease. Music therapy uses movement, melody and rhythm to help with common issues faced by those with PD like bradykinesia (movement slowness that affects quality of life). This form of therapy has been shown to help improve seniors by focusing on:

  • Communication: Humming exercises help relax tense vocal folds. Singing can improve low voice volume and enhance vocal quality.
  • Balance: Side-to-side movement, posture and stride length can all improve with music therapy. 
  • Cognition: Singing helps improve memory, and can also help with attention span, recall and recognition. 
  • Social Isolation: Group activities provide social interaction and the chance to connect with others. 
  • Mental Health: Music helps people with PD find a sense of purpose and self-expression that can combat the feelings of anxiety, depression, stress and others. 

“Whether it’s classical, jazz, rock, country or some other kind of music, it’s one thing we can enjoy at any age,” says Greg. “There’s always something new to discover in music - and that’s always a good way to stay young at heart.” 

Music and Waterstone at the Circle

“Waterstone at the Circle is located at a cultural hub that provides our residents so many opportunities to participate in and enjoy all sorts of music,” says Greg. “From symphony concerts to touring rock-and-roll groups to local choirs, dance troupes and so much more, our residents have a plethora of musical opportunities at their fingertips. Since they’re now living in our all-inclusive independent living community, they have all the time in the world to explore and experience music without having to worry about chores and tasks.”

Music is also an integral part of life on-campus at Waterstone at the Circle, too. “Whenever possible, we incorporate music into our life enrichment programming,” says Greg. “This includes outings to concerts and performances, but also music lessons, guest performers at our community, using music in fitness courses and so much more.”

If you’d like to learn more about the benefits of music for aging adults, or if you’re wondering how a luxury senior living community like Waterstone at the Circle can help you live an active and fulfilled life, contact us today at 617.431.1880.

Luxury Senior Living in Boston

Waterstone at the Circle, located in Boston’s historic Cleveland Circle neighborhood, is more than just independent living in Boston … it’s a sophisticated urban setting for today’s active seniors. Enjoy best-in-class service and a carefree lifestyle with arts and cultural, and historical attractions right outside your front door. From high-end amenities to gourmet dining and more, experience the best of city and suburban life at our upscale senior living community located on the crossroads of Brookline and Chestnut Hill. 

Elegant Independent Living Apartments

Each of our 92 independent living apartments is the height of luxury and modernity, with sophisticated design, upscale features and stunning views of the city. Create the urban senior living experience you want with one- or two-bedroom apartments, a variety of floor plans and monthly rentals.  

Senior Living Supportive Services

As an over-62 community, residents may require support from time to time. That’s why we’ve developed an on-site coordinated care program, in cooperation with our premier community partners, that allows our independent living residents to receive the assistance they need.

The best part? Residents don’t have to leave our senior living community – or even their apartment – to receive high-quality support. They can receive the services they need, when they need it, in the comfort of their own homes or in our on-site therapy gym.

Waterstone at the Circle is the opposite of retiring. . . it’s a place to enhance your active, on-the-go lifestyle. Call 617.431.1880 for more information or to schedule a visit to our Boston independent living community and discover The Circle lifestyle today!