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Music Therapy for the Elderly

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenApril 16, 2012

Music can have a powerful impact on anyone, but it releases a tripwire of powerful memories for the elderly. This is why music therapy is one of the most effective treatments for seniors. Learn more about how music can affect your senior loved ones. 

No musician or music lover denies the transformative power of music. Music is good for the spirit, however young or old you may be.

How Music Therapy Can Affect Seniors

A clip from the soon-to-be released documentary about music and the elderly, Alive Inside, recently went viral. It shows an older man with dementia who is seemingly only able to answer yes or no questions. But when someone puts headphones over his ears and plays music from his youth, he suddenly transforms, becoming happy, animated, and even eloquent. Shortly after this experience he tells an interviewer, “It [music] gives me the feeling of love, of romance. I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing.”

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Music Therapy Tips for Loved Ones

If there is an older person in your life who loves music, but who has fallen out of practice, encourage him or her to rekindle that passion. There’s everything to gain and nothing to lose. Here are some pointers:

  1. If you have an elderly relative who used to play an instrument, try to get him or her playing again. If there’s an instrument up in the attic, dust it off and restring it. Have it fixed up if necessary. If the instrument is gone, buy an affordable replacement.
  2. If you and your older loved one sing or play instruments, by all means do so together, especially if you haven’t before. Music can create a very special bond.
  3. If your loved one was a music lover, but not a musician, ask about his or her favorite music. Maybe even ask for a list of his or her favorite artists, albums, and songs. Then get your loved one an easy to use MP3 player with his or her favorite music already preloaded.  If your generosity extends to strangers, one organization, Music and Memory, even accepts donations of used iPods to be used in music therapy.

More About Music Therapy for the Elderly

Learn more about music therapy and its affects on seniors, in this fascinating, in-depth article about music being used as dementia therapy.

You can also look through our article archive for access to hundreds of senior housing and senior living articles to help educate your family and loved ones.

Have you used music therapy in your family? What music most affected your loved one? Share your story in the comments below.

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