For some years now, music therapy has been used to treat a number of conditions in people of all ages. No matter what the type of music – be it jazz, classical, pop, folk or country, the benefits of listening to music are significant. Neuroscientists have discovered that music stimulates the brain to release dopamine, a brain chemical known as a ‘feel good’ hormone, responsible for feelings of elation, bliss and motivation. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter, which means it assists with some bodily functions and in transmission of signals across the synapses (gaps between cells) of the brain. Needless to say, it plays an important role in the body.
Music therapy is used to treat depression and anxiety, alleviate loneliness and to relieve stress (by lowering cortisol levels). It can also reduce blood pressure, assist with pain management and improve sleep, mood and cognition. Music therapy has increased in popularity as it provides a great work out for the brain, hence why it is increasingly used to assist the elderly, and in particular, individuals living with dementia. Our memories are very much intertwined with our emotions, and as such music can generate past memories both good and bad. Tapping into positive memories is an important aspect of music therapy in the elderly, as it enhances mood and therefore general happiness levels.
The benefits of music for the elderly are not just important for the brain but equally so for the body. Moving to music, be it dancing, a water aerobics session or even a chair-based activity such as tapping the foot or hand clapping can raise the heart rate, stimulate blood flow, improve coordination and mobility. In turn this promotes increased relaxation, a better night’s sleep and a reduction in pain.
There are a variety of ways in which to incorporate music into the lives of your elderly loved ones. Play some of their favourite CD’s, enjoy some radio in the car or at home, attend a music concert, join a singing workshop or encourage them to participate in a dance or exercise class to enhance their overall fitness and wellbeing.
Whatever you choose, participating in a musical activity will help to promote your elderly loved one’s physical and emotional health for the better. At Homestyle, we run many events and activities for our residents involving music, such as our fun Rock and Roll Elvis dance night.
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