Learn about the many advantages of music therapy for seniors and dementia care
Music has the power to make us feel certain emotions, and certain songs from our past can evoke memories.
Music therapy soothes people of all ages, but seniors can especially benefit from this form of therapy as it can help them remember moments from their past and improve their physical and mental health.
Continue reading as we discuss the benefits of music therapy for seniors.
What is music therapy?
Music therapy is a research-backed therapy that utilizes music’s natural healing properties to help people address their physical, mental, and emotional needs, such as reducing stress or improving mood.
Music therapy can include listening to music, dancing, making music, singing, and writing songs individually or in a group session, depending on what your loved one prefers.
Your music therapist may choose an active process where your loved one is involved with making music or a passive process that involves listening and reacting to the music. Many therapists choose to combine these two methods for the most effective session possible.
A licensed music therapist usually begins by identifying your goals and determining what benefits you wish to get out of each session. During a music therapy session, your therapist may ask you to listen to your emotions and allow your dancing or singing to reflect them. Another strategy is using music to change how you’re feeling. For example, if you’re feeling angry, your music therapist may play music with soft and soothing tones to see how you react.
There are likely music therapists in your community that can help your loved one meet their goals. A couple of options in the Orlando area are CFC Arts or Joyful Music Therapy which offers both one-on-one and group sessions.
While a certified music therapist should guide your specific goals, family members or your caregiver can also provide you with a musical outlet.
What are the benefits of music therapy for seniors?
Music therapy can help seniors with:
- Cognitive skills. Music can help process thoughts and emotions as well as improve memory. Music is often associated with certain events and sometimes just hearing a song is enough for seniors to recall a memory from their past.
- Speech skills. Music can help older adults make decisions, speak more clearly, and answer questions. In dementia patients, music can also help to slow the deterioration of speech.  Many seniors with dementia will still sing or hum their favorite songs.
- Stress reduction. Playing soothing music can help seniors relax if they’re feeling stressed. Slow and soothing songs can also help them go to sleep or deal with agitation.
- Physical skills. Upbeat music can encourage movement in seniors. Dancing provides a fun way for seniors to exercise and improve their physical health by promoting coordination and building endurance.
- Social skills. Increased social interaction with your music therapist or caregiver is another benefit to music therapy because it can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression and improve mental health.
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How music therapy can help with dementia
Music therapy is often used with dementia patients to help them evoke memories, deal with frustrations, and encourage bonding.
Music can evoke powerful emotions as well as memories. Songs from when your loved one was young can trigger happy memories with their family or friends that they may have forgotten. Music interacts with the motor center of our brain, and this part stays intact even for seniors with late-stage dementia. 
Seniors with dementia may often feel overwhelmed or frustrated, and music may help them process these feelings more easily. Music has a great emotional impact, and listening to relaxing music can help seniors ease their confusion and anxiety.
Many seniors with dementia withdraw from their family, friends, and activities they used to enjoy. Music can encourage bonding, and it helps you and your loved one experience a moment of relaxation and happiness together. You may also be able to dance with them to some of their favorite songs.
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Tips for music therapy
If you’re considering using music therapy for seniors, follow these simple tips to get the most out of their experience.
- Understand their preferences. Ask your loved one what kind of music they like or try to pay attention to their reaction as you play different songs. You can also involve family and friends to help suggest songs and make playlists.
- Set the mood. To calm your loved one during mealtime, bedtime, or during stressful experiences, try playing soothing, calm music. Upbeat music is always a great option to boost your loved one’s mood.
- Sing along. Singing along to a song with your loved one can help boost their mood as well as encourage bonding.
- Encourage dancing and movement. When listening to music, encourage toe tapping, clapping, or even get up and dance with them.
- Pay attention to their response. If your loved one seems to be enjoying a song, play it often and add it to a playlist. However, if you notice them reacting negatively to a certain song or type of music, be sure to try to avoid those songs in the future.
- Schedule time for music. Take note of the times of day or activities that cause them stress or upset them. Play some of their favorite music during this time to help them stay calm.
Looking for a caregiver for you or a loved one?
Music therapy is one of the many services our Flourish in Place caregivers provide for your loved one.
Our caregiver will work with you and your loved one to determine what type of music they like, create playlists, and create a music schedule that fits into your routine.
Our trained caregivers can also assist with a variety of needs and activities including transportation, personal care, dementia care, cooking and serving nutritious meals, and companionship.
To learn more, please request your Free Consultation today.
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1: National Library of Medicine | Music Therapy in the Treatment of Dementia: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis
2: National Library of Medicine | Motor cortex excitability in Alzheimer’s disease: a transcranial magnetic stimulation study