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Music Therapy for the Elderly

Last week during the Morning Cup of Joe with Pure Vita Co, I answered the question, “What are some great brain activities for seniors?” While music was not one of my suggestions during the quick video, music therapy is a phenomenal brain activity for seniors! Music therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Believe it or not, music therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each client, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Music therapy is a great option of therapy for our elderly loved ones with Alzheimer’s and Dementia that will bring them brain stimulation and joy.

Music and the Brain

As you can see in the gallery above, the brain processes music in tremendous ways with different areas of the brain responding in different ways. Different types of music also impact the brain differently. For a while, researchers believed that classical music increased brain activity and made its listeners smarter, a phenomenon called the Mozart effect. But in recent studies, researchers have found that people with dementia respond better to the music they grew up listening to! If played their favorite music, different parts of their brain will light up. Our brain associate’s music with our emotional memories and never fades out – even in Alzheimer’s patients.

The Two Types of Music Therapy

Music therapists work directly with family members, caregivers, and patients to find the best music for a desired goal of dementia therapy. Desired goals include improved memory, lower agitation, improve cognitive skills and other goals. Music can even be used to “retune” the brain to remember certain tasks during early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia. But in the later stages, music is most helpful in maintaining motor skills. Then in all cases, music is proven to reduce anxiety and stress while increasing attention, motivation, and focus.

There are two types of music therapy: passive and active music therapy.

Passive music therapy consists of music listening, where an individual is listening to live or recorded music. This is considered passive because no music engagement or active participation is involved.

Active music therapy techniques include engaging the client in singing, music composition, and instrument playing.

In summary, music therapy is a great form of therapy for our elderly loved ones and enjoying music is benefificial for us all! If you are interested in finding a musical therapist for your elderly loved one, talk to their doctor and visit American Music Therapy Association to find a music therapist near you!

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