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Seniors and Music – 6 Benefits of Music Therapy


I love music, and anyone who truly knows me, knows I am a big fan of Harry Chapin. For me, few musicians compare with his way of weaving a story. The mental images he paints are, for me, therapeutic. If I were to set a timeline for the music I like, it would begin with the Kingston Trio and end with Harry Chapin. Though that’s the time frame, I still occasionally enjoy classical music and a select few other genres.


The first time I truly recall someone saying music was the universal language was in eighth grade sitting in the auditorium at boarding school the day before classes started. The school had several foreign students and, as I recall, the superintendent said that though we may not be able to connect with some of our new classmates verbally, we could do so musically. I’m not sure then I really cared or even gave his words much thought, my only desire was to get out of that auditorium as quickly as possible. After all, I was only thirteen and not a big fan of long speeches. Still not.  It turns out though he may have been on to something. A recent study by Harvard University  “shows that music carries a set of unique codes and patterns, which are in fact universally understood. The findings show that by analyzing a song’s acoustic features, such as tonality, ornamentation, and tempo, it’s possible for people to understand its meaning, regardless of its cultural background.”


A second quote I heard often was music “soothes the savage beast.” Well, turns out this is a misquote. The correct quote comes from the opening lines of the play, The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve, ”music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak.” I don’t know about music being able to soften rocks or straighten out the knots of an oak tree, but countless studies have been done on the positive benefits of music as therapy, especially for seniors.


Music therapy is the use of music to address the physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of a group or individual. It employs a variety of activities, such as listening to melodies, playing an instrument, drumming, writing songs, and guided imagery. Music therapy touches all aspects of the mind, body, brain, and behavior. Music can provide a distraction for the mind, it can slow the rhythms of the body, and it can alter our mood, which in turn can influence behavior.” Today we will be looking at some of the benefits of music therapy.



  • Improves heart health – A study by Harvard Health showed that … “music can help ease your recovery from a cardiac procedure, get you back to normal after a heart attack or stroke, relieve stress, and maybe even lower your blood pressure a tad.”


  • Helps manage pain – Citing prior research, Suzanne B. Hanser, EdD, MT-BC and Susan E. Mandel, Ph.D., MT-BC, writing in Practical Pain Management, look at recent research showing how music not only helps manage pain but also lessens the need for painkilling prescription drugs.



  • Reduces stressJane Collingwood, a medical researcher, and journalist, contributing to PsychCentral, cites several studies showing numerous ways music can not only reduce stress but also promote healing, both physically and emotionally.


  • Improve speechAvinash Ramsadeen, a supervisor at RADIO.COM, cites work done by multiple therapists who have had success in improving the client’s speech and overall health with music therapy.


  • Increased social interactionLinda McNair, a board-certified music therapist, has worked almost exclusively with seniors and has experienced not only improvements in social interaction but also in their physical and emotional well-being.


  • Improved cognitive skills – Writing in PsychCentral, Suzanne Kane, a Los Angeles based writer blogger and editor, cites numerous studies of how music therapy improves the cognitive skills of both the young and old.


It’s interesting what sound patterns our brains will tune in to and how they can heal multiple ailments both physical and emotional. This isn’t fake science; the evidence is vast and concrete. Music not only soothes and relaxes, but it also has healing elements. Perhaps, it isn’t like surgery, but it can help you manage pain, stress and a number of other things. Probably not a bad idea for you and the senior in your life to listen to a few more of your favorite tunes.