Senior man holding daughters hand and smiling

Music In Senior Care Communities

Music is basic to the human experience; archaeologists have found musical instruments in the earliest human settlements, and every culture in the world has music. So it is not surprising that music can bring pleasure to people in senior care facilities.

A good senior living facility will offer a variety of activities for residents, and music is often on the list. A gospel concert on Sundays, social dancing to music from the days of the residents’ youth, or sing-alongs on Friday nights may be popular activities in a senior living center. Residents may also enjoy hearing their own favorite music in their homes.

Research suggests that music has greater benefits than just providing entertainment:

  • A 1995 study found that trained musicians showed physical differences in brain structure; those who continued to play music later in life continued to show greater brain development.
  • Twin studies (studies comparing pairs of twins in which one twin suffered from dementia and one did not) have shown that active participation in music provides brain stimulation that can delay the onset and progress of memory loss.
  • Research reported in the journal Neuropsychology found that studying music helped people maintain brain flexibility and functioning as they aged.
  • An article in The Gerontologist reported that Christian seniors who listened to religious music felt greater life satisfaction and a greater sense of control than those who did not. The study did not look at other faith traditions, but did see the same effects across different socioeconomic and ethnic groups.
  • Singing in groups has been shown to reduce anxiety and to increase well-being in older adults.
  • Listening to music has been found to reduce anxiety and the experience of pain. While many of the studies with these findings rely on people’s own reports of how they feel, one study found that the subjects’ blood vessels dilated, allowing more blood flow.

Research on the subject continues, but most people who work with seniors know from their own experience that music can be a powerful force for good – as well as a fun addition to the day.