Music Therapy for Older Adults
Create + Connect Through Music
When most other modes of communication, emoting, and movement are lost, the ability to remember, connect with, and create music can stay with us through the aging process. It is true that we will remember the music that we listen to in our early adulthood is what we remember and cling to even as other things slip away from our memories as we become older adults. Music therapists are trained to be able to use the connections we have made to this music to achieve therapeutic goals that are relevant to older adults.
Some of the goals and techniques that may be included in the music therapy treatment process include cognition. Since music connects many different areas of the brain at once. It can help strengthen the connections that already exist and make new connections in the brain which can actually help to maintain and even improve memory in older adults.
Improving Motor Skills
Music therapists also help to work on motor skills. We use the music as motivation and structure to help older adults to complete movements and carry them over into their lives outside of the music therapy session.
Music therapists are able to help with gait training, range of motion, and other purposeful movements such as twisting/turning, crossing mid-line, and even activities such as teeth-brushing, and getting up from a chair.
Fostering Social Connections
Music therapy is often used to achieve social goals. Music is an extremely powerful tool in helping to create meaningful social connections. Older adults are able to bond with each other over a shared experience within a music therapy session. They may share a common interest in a song or musician.
Making music together in the moment whether it is vocal, instrumental, or even writing a song together helps older adults to create strong bonds with each other and feel a sense of belonging amongst their peers. Music therapists may also facilitate specific social responses such as hand-shaking, smiling, nodding, sharing, etc. that an older adult may not be able to initiate on their own.
Achieving Emotional Goals
Finally, music therapy is very effective in working on emotional goals with older adults. Music therapists know how to help our clients to use music as a tool for self-expression and identifying emotions. Through music, older adults may be able to express emotions that they may not have been able or willing to verbalize otherwise. They may be able to engage in interventions such as discussing lyrics to a song they connect to, playing out emotions such as angry or happy on an instrument, dedicating/associating songs to people or favorite places, and so much more.
Older adults who are low functioning can benefit emotionally just from being able to make a meaningful connection to another person whether it is the therapist, a loved one, or a peer simply through being present in the music together. Music Therapy can also help to decrease depression, anxiety, and agitation amongst older adults.
Improved Quality of
Life for Older Adults
Music therapists are able to work on these goals and use these techniques with older adults in long term care facilities who are affected by diseases such as Parkinsons’s, dementia, Alzheimer’s, strokes, and orthopedic injuries. We are also able to use these as maintenance goals for well older adults who are looking to maintain their motor, mental, and emotional strength and abilities.