When you watch a movie, do you ever listen closely to the music and connect how you feel about what is happening on the screen to what you hear? Have you ever watched a scary movie with no sound? I would bet that if you did, you would realize that it was the music that made you jump far more than the words. The connection between music and emotion is a well-known one but more and more people are using music in their work with seniors with disabilities. There has been work with Alzheimer patients and music and a well-publicized "iPod Project" (musicandmemory.org).
Music unlocks memories, helps with behavioural issues, improves mood and a host of other things. But a story on CBC news today raised another use and benefit of music for seniors. It seems that playing musical instruments can decrease the effects of some diseases. In Windsor, ON a music therapist has been working with Parkinson's patients and has found that playing an instrument decreases their tremors when they are playing.
Research indicates that music can motivate people to move, have a calming effect, change negative thoughts into positive and remind one of happy times. Whenever I go to a retirement home when there is entertainment present, there are always people singing along and listening intently. Some even get up and dance. Watching the crowd one can see how uplifting it is for those present. There is even research on a certain piece of classical music played for children with epilepsy. It appears that there is something about this one piece of Mozart music that calms the brain and helps these kids.
So, if you have an elderly loved one with or without dementia, do try finding music that they enjoy and play it for them. If they played an instrument in the past and you can access one easily, perhaps suggest they start playing again. If you have loved ones in a nursing or retirement home or know any that visit seniors centres and you don't think they have musical programming for them, speak to administration about incorporating it. And for the rest of you, keep listening to music - it is truly 'food for the soul'..........