Music Therapy & Seniors
"One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain." – Bob Marley
Language and cultures vary from place to place, but music is universal. It doesn't matter how old or young you are, or what challenges you may have, music has the power to reverberate deep within a person. The American Music Therapy Association defines music therapy as, "clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship". It's a very fancy way of saying that music is powerful, and can have positive health benefits for people: physically, mentally, socially and cognitively.
There is a variety of special populations targeted for music therapy: military veterans, children, persons on the Autism Spectrum as well as elderly persons with different diagnoses. For people who may be resistive to other forms of treatment or therapy, music therapy can be a successful option. When used in a therapy setting, finding the right style of music is an important component to ensure participation.
Music therapy is a form of sensory stimulation and can be especially useful and therapeutic to older persons with Alzheimer's disease. Whether it is the words in the song, the music itself, or the memories that surface while a song is playing, this stimulation can impart feelings of security and calm. Even without a conscious thought, a tune can bring about a nostalgic feeling. It can be related to a happy time in their life, or help them remember an important event like their wedding, or a child's graduation.
The more a person is involved with music, the more parts of the brain are stimulated. There is increased brain activity when you sing a song, play an instrument or even just tap your foot than if you only listen. Participating is also known as active therapy, and often involves nothing more than a simple drum or egg shaker. Active therapy can be beneficial to elderly who do not use their hands a lot. It will get them moving, even just a little bit, and can help maintain the strength they do have.
Patients with dementia, when exposed to a familiar genre or era of music, will often respond by singing along and outwardly participating. A change in facial expression or body language can also signal that the music has impacted a person with Alzheimer's disease that other treatments cannot.
Music therapy does not change the course of dementia, but it can allow a person to temporarily engage more while listening to music. Music can also be used to help with anxiety and agitation, which are common behaviors seen with patients with dementia. On a social level, music can provoke conversation interaction with others.
Since music is universally enjoyed, and it brings such a great response to all levels of cognition, it is a great activity for all to participate in. You don't have to have a formal music therapy program to benefit. An intergenerational music program or activity that brings different populations together can be another way to bring sensory stimulation through music.
For more information on the types of music activities available at The Villas Senior Care Community, provides, or if you would like to volunteer to bring music to our residents, contact us today at (217) 744-2299 and ask for the Activities Department.