According to the Music Teacher’s National Association, music helps lower depression and decrease loneliness in older people. They suggest that by engaging in musical auditory experiences, we can alter our moods and outlook for the moment. The MTNA further states that by continuing to use these techniques, the affects of depression can be minimized. It may surprise you to know that actual studies have proven this hypothesis .
“Depression is a major health problem that affects many older people, causing significant distress and disability, exacerbating existing medical conditions, and resulting in earlier death and higher use of services.” This conclusion, from the Medical Journal of Australia, is just one study confirming the status of mental health in older adults. The study goes even further by stressing that there is potential for community programs and the arts (especially music-related activities) to prevent depression in older people.
Several more scientific studies have also been done that show increased quality of life for individuals engaged in musical activities. The American Music Therapy Association has compiled a list of various benefits that can be derived from these activities when used by senior citizens.
- Reduced muscle tension improved self-image and increased self-esteem
- Decreased anxiety and agitation, and increased verbalization
- Enhanced interpersonal relationships and improved group cohesiveness
- Enhanced self-expression and self-awareness Increased motivation
- Improved perception and differentiation of feelings
- Improved ability to self sooth and cope with traumatic triggers
These findings bring forward more reasons for us to renew or continues our musical studies as we age. Musical activities not only advance the learning of new skills but help us to better enjoy our lives through enhanced emotional facets as well. As older adults, we have more time to devote to musical pursuits. As we retire from a formal profession or become empty nesters, we have time to engage in activities centered around our needs and desires. This period of life can also lead to depression and loneliness. Where we once filled our time caring for families, they have become more independent and our role as caretakers has been diminished. As older retired adults, our careers are no longer taking 40-plus hours a week, and many social interactions associated with work colleagues are drastically reduced. If we can fill those hours with activities that stimulate our brainwaves and give us a sense of accomplishment, our quality of life improves along with our mental well-being.