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Seniors Playing Instruments

The Surprising Benefits of Music for Seniors

David Guzman

This is the Tacoma New Horizons Band - nine members strong, and growing.

Seniors with their instruments

They’re a small group of senior musicians who meet every Thursday at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma. Many used to play music in high school, but couldn’t find a proper venue to play after they graduated.

“I haven’t played for over 50 years,” says Bill, saxophonist. “I always liked playing but never had a place to play. Now I do.”

New Horizons is an international music program started by NAMM in the early 1990s. The program is perfect for older adults who have no musical experience but would like to learn - or for people who loved school music but haven’t had the opportunity to play since.

“It’s just nice to have a place to play, and meet a lot of wonderful people,” says Didi, flutist. "Hopefully we'll see more signing up soon!"

Programs like New Horizons are extremely important - and beneficial - for the fastest growing age group in our country. Here’s why:

Music is great for the brain.

It’s already pretty well-known that music helps develop brain function in young people. Now, research is showing that music helps maintain that brain function when you’re older.

One study shows that adults ages 60 to 85 (with no previous musical experience) showed improved memory and processing speed after only 3 months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons! You don’t even need to have musical experience to enjoy the benefits.

Seniors Playing Music

Playing or listening to music releases a flood of feel-good brain chemicals, like melatonin, serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These chemicals regulate your sleep cycle, mood, motivation, attention, and more.

Music can even slow the effects of Alzheimer's Disease and dementia. Studies have shown that even when an Alzheimer’s patient loses the ability to speak, they still recognize and can even hum or sing their favorite music.

Music can keep your ears young, too. Research shows that playing music strengthens the part of your brain that controls hearing (the auditory cortex). Seniors who play music regularly tend to have better hearing than those who don’t!

Music helps you live longer.

Have you heard of entrainment?

Entrainment is an amazing process where the rhythms of music synchronize with your biological rhythms. By playing or listening to music that relaxes you, you can physically and mentally process anything from medications to your emotions. Musical activity is proven to stimulate organs in your body, and lower blood pressure.

Senior Flute Player

“I have troubles with my breathing,” Didi says. “[Playing in New Horizons] is almost like coming to physical therapy. Playing just helps you breathe better.”

Music can even help ward off infection and disease. A recent study showed an increase in natural killer cells in participants of an hour-long drumming session.

Music is great for helping maintain physical endurance in seniors. Music inspires movement - even minimal movement like toe tapping or hand clapping can lower blood pressure and release any pent-up physical or mental stress. Dancing to music is a terrific form of exercise. The act of playing an instrument helps coordinate motor function.

Music makes life better.

A life with music can influence your perceptions about the quality of your life.

As seniors become less physically active or live alone, this can lead to isolation. As a regular activity, playing music helps refocus negative feelings and lift the spirits. It can help refocus negative thinking and behavior into positive activity.

Senior Flute Player

Playing in a group helps maintain social skills and connect with new people (something that always gets more difficult as you get older). It encourages bonding with others, which in turn can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.

“The best thing about the band is the fellowship,” Bill says. “We really feel like a team. It’s cool. It’s nice to get exposure to different types of music and learn together.”

Get started!

Interested in joining the Tacoma New Horizons Band, or know someone who is? Email director Debbie Jaap for more information, or simply show up at the next rehearsal! Rehearsals are every Thursday at 10am at Ted Brown Music in Tacoma. Membership is $10 per year.

Music lessons are available for all ages - including an increasing number of seniors. It doesn’t matter how much skill you have - take lessons for the sheer enjoyment of playing music and feel the benefits! We’re here to help you and your family make music in any capacity. Stop into one of our six locations and let us help you get started.

 
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