Life has a rhythm that’s all around us: the patter of rain on the roof, the beating of our heart, the measured pace of our footsteps. So it makes sense that we’re drawn to music from an early age and it continues to play an important role throughout our lives. Music can help us relieve stress, smile and feel happy, or inspire us to get up and move. Not surprisingly, there are numerous benefits of music for seniors with dementia. At Heritage Senior Living, our memory care services include our unique music and memory program called A Measure in Time.
If your loved one has Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia, this blog post will discuss the benefits of music for dementia care and the impact music has on memory.
The Effect Music Has on The Brain
Music stimulates many parts of the brain all at the same time, including areas dealing with language, mood and movement, along with the senses of hearing, sight, sound and touch. During early childhood, music is used to learn the ABCs and lessons about itsy, bitsy spiders and Jack and Jill. But most of our preferred musical tastes are formed in our teens and early 20s.
That’s why when using music as therapy, it’s best to select songs that match up with a senior’s personal history. For example, hymns might be perfect for someone who grew up in the church, while their college fight song might be fun for someone who played university sports.
Benefits of Listening to Music
- Stress: Listening to music has been found to help seniors deal with stress and anxiety by slowing high heart rates and reducing levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
- Speech and cognitive skills: Music can be used to slow the decline of speech skills in those with dementia; it can also inspire nonverbal seniors to communicate by singing or humming. In fact, rhythmic music stimulates certain areas of the brain to increase blood flow and has been shown to help improve seniors’ performance on cognitive tests.
- Socializing: In music therapy programs, participants are encouraged to communicate and connect with other members of their group, often leading to new friendships. By socializing, seniors can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
- Mood: Listening to music can lead to increased secretion levels of “feel-good” brain chemicals like melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine and prolactin. Stimulating music with a quick tempo and percussion can help motivate seniors to take action or stay awake, while soft music with a slow melody might prove more soothing.
- Immunity: Singing and music interventions can help improve immune response.
- Moving: Sometimes there’s a song that just makes you want to move, so it’s no surprise that music can inspire seniors to get some health exercise by clapping, swaying, or dancing.
We’re in Tune with Your Loved One’s Needs
At Heritage Senior Living, our music and memory program — A Measure in Time — provides residents with personalized playlists made up of music that means something to them, whether it’s classic ballads or rock ‘n’ roll. These playlists enable many residents to converse and socialize again and to regain a sense of self.
To learn more about our music therapy and dementia care, contact us here.