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How Music Improves Quality of Life for Senior Housing Residents

Sarah Stevenson
By Sarah StevensonOctober 4, 2012

A Seattle jazz drumming pioneer, George Griffin, is bringing the joys and health benefits of music to fellow senior housing residents in Rainier Valley.

Photo credit: Alan Berner, The Seattle Times

George Griffin has spent a lifetime drumming, from his childhood years pounding on cardboard boxes to his successful career as a jazz drummer, opening for such legendary names as John Coltrane and Miles Davis. And, the Seattle Times reports, he’s still going—this time bringing the benefits of music to seniors in his independent living complex.

Music for Senior Health and Well-Being

We already know that music and other enjoyable activities correlate with improved health and well-being in seniors, which is why Griffin’s efforts to teach drumming make such an encouraging story. According to the National Institute on Aging, studies have found that “people who are involved in hobbies and other social and leisure pursuits may be at lower risk for (and less likely to develop) some health problems, including dementia. They might even live longer.”

Not only that, recent research is indicating that social activity plays a role, too, and so does “productive activity” such as working, volunteering, and yes, playing a musical instrument. Such activities can make our senior loved ones happier, healthier, more active, and increase their sense of personal satisfaction.

Turning Independent Living into Active Living

The other seniors in Griffin’s housing complex are seeing these benefits firsthand. But it wasn’t always that way. Because the Rainier Valley complex where he lives encourages independent living, it doesn’t have any assisted living services. The problem was, independent living didn’t necessarily translate into active living. Griffin noticed that a lot of the residents were “sitting around doing nothing. I decided drumming might be a good thing.”

So, six months ago, he put up notices around the complex, saying that he was going to start up a drum line—no experience necessary. Though Griffin still plays the occasional gig as a jazz drummer, these days he’s spending a lot of time as mentor to the 3G Senior Hand Drum Line (the 3G stands for George Gentre Griffin). He’s tough, energetic, and funny, say the budding musicians in his group, and his drum practices have provided joy, camaraderie and entertainment as well as lessons in rhythm. One resident even says it’s helped her sense of balance.

It’s an inspiring story, and one that reminds us senior living doesn’t have to be dull or routine. In fact, it’s better for our loved ones’ health if it isn’t! If you have family members in assisted or independent living, do they have access to musical activities or other leisure pursuits? If so, have you noticed any positive changes to their health and well-being as a result? Let us know in the comments.

Sarah Stevenson
Sarah Stevenson
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