Is Music Therapy the New Medication?

For seniors with an abundance of free time, listening to music a wonderful way for them to pass the time, allowing them to relax and stay entertained, as well as connecting with old memories. But did you know that listening to music is more than just an enjoyable pastime? As it turns out, scientific studies have shown that music can be used leveraged for some serious health benefits.

Individualized music therapy can improve quality of life, and even counteract the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.
The increased availability of iPods, iPads, and similar devices means that your residents have a universe of music at their fingertips. One way to help them harness this power is to develop customized playlists, tailored to accommodate individual preferences. Not only will seniors will appreciate the easy access to their favorite music, but they’ll be improving their health. In fact, one study regarding the use of customized playlists for seniors found that “For some [seniors] with cognitive or memory loss, medications have been decreased and some anti-anxiety drugs have been eliminated.”

Music therapy can be used in an even more targeted manner to mitigate the symptoms of some diseases. If you know any seniors with Parkinson’s disease, music therapy can be a tremendous help to them. For those afflicted with the disease, leg spasms and balance problems cause great difficulty in walking. But because the brain is wired to automatically respond to highly rhythmic music, listening to this type of music can trigger organized movement, helping to counteract some of the difficulties experienced due to Parkinson’s. As one study recounts
“Something remarkable happened when the 60-year-old public speaking coach turned to an oldies station on her shower radio: She could move her leg with ease, her balance improved, and, she couldn’t stop dancing. Now, she puts on her iPod and pumps in Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” when she wants to walk quickly; for a slower pace, Queen’s “We Are the Champions” does the trick.”
As an activity director, there are many ways you can help your seniors take advantage of the health benefits of music. If you think some of your seniors could benefit from serious, structured music therapy, you can help them find a professional therapist to work with. You can also facilitate more informal musical engagement by hosting music-oriented events, or by helping seniors use technology to discover new music and engage with old favorites.

Have you explored music therapy with your residents? How do you encourage your seniors to engage with music?