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September 01, 2016

Senior Music Therapy: The Power of Music


Music is one of the most powerful art forms that can transform your mood and bring people together. If you reflect on some of your greatest experiences, you’ll probably remember that music was also present in those moments. Although it’s common to have different preferences in music, it is rare to meet a person who dislikes music altogether!

Why Music

From the time we were born and even earlier, some say, we are exposed to music. Your mother sang lullabies to you as a newborn and singing songs with other children was a typical part of nursery and elementary school. Developing into young adults, we created our own taste in music. And for some, music became more than a source of entertainment but a passion and career. Every day, most of us are exposed to music in some form or fashion. We hear it in a store, in an elevator, or intentionally turn on the radio to drown out the “noise” and escape for a while.

            As we get older, remembering important experiences and milestones may become increasingly difficult. For those living with various forms of dementia, moments of confusion and agitation often outnumber those of joy and happiness. But even in the midst of living with memory loss, there is something that can help trigger important memories and allow the individual to feel clarity and happiness. Music.

How It Helps

The use of music therapy is a relatively new advancement and shows great promise in enriching the lives of those with Alzheimer’s. Recent studies show that listening to music engages networks in the brain, including regions responsible for motor actions, emotions and creativity.

"We have a such a deep connection to music because it is 'hardwired' in our brains and bodies," Barbara Else, senior advisor of policy and research at the American Music Therapy Association told Medical News Today. "The elements of music - rhythm, melody, etc. - are echoed in our physiology, functioning, and being." 

Seniors living with Alzheimer’s, dementia or other forms of cognitive impairment have good days and not-so-good days. They are often confused and withdrawn and resistant to encouragement. Music can be a powerful way to coax interaction and make them more comfortable, leading to increased socialization.

What We Do

At Fieldstone Memory Care in Kennewick, Life Enrichment Director, Julie Hooley, is certified in music therapy and has spearheaded the effort to engage resident through song. Involving the residents’ family members is a key part of the program. They are asked to create a list of songs their loved one enjoyed from their younger years. This personalized playlist is loaded onto an iPod. Julie then schedules music therapy with participating residents and the results are quite amazing. Just like physical therapy exercises weak or compromised muscles, music therapy helps exercise the brain and even heals.


Topics: Health, Alzheimer's

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