Alzheimer's / Dementia

7/18/2017 | By Terri L. Jones

You’ve probably heard about the astounding impact music has on those with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. While they may not often speak or even remember their loved ones’ names, many people with dementia become very animated while listening to their favorite song, swaying, singing and even recalling all the words. Watch one powerful example.

But music doesn’t benefit only those who have already experienced a decline in cognitive function. Those beautiful melodies, both those you play and those you listen to, can even help prevent that dreaded decline in the first place.

Thank your mom for those music lessons

If you currently play a musical instrument or have ever played—even as a child—it’s like insurance for your brain. Playing music actually increases your volume of gray and white matter and builds neural connections.

Alison Balbag, a professional harpist who began musical training at age 5, explained in an article in National Geographic: “What’s unique about playing an instrument is that it requires a wide array of brain regions and cognitive functions to work together simultaneously, in both right and left hemispheres of the brain.”

Never too late!

What if you didn’t learn to play an instrument as a child? (I, for one, stood in line for a flute for my elementary school band, but unfortunately, they ran out of my instrument of choice before I got to the front of the line.)

The good news is that even if you pick up a flute or sit down at a piano for the first time now, you’ll still reap many of the benefits. According to that same National Geographic article, people between the ages of 60 and 85, who had taken piano lessons for just six months, were found to experience greater improvements in memory, verbal fluency, planning ability and the speed that they processed information than those who did not participate the late-in-life lessons.

Rather just put on the headphones?

While playing music seems to have the most benefits, studies show that even listening to music can be a good workout for your brain. A recent study found that enjoying everything from Vivaldi to the Beatles not only activates the auditory region of your brain, but also the motor and limbic regions. In fact, those who perform certain tasks while listening to background music have been shown to be more productive and have greater cognitive performance.

Not to mention, those tunes will elevate your mood, relieve your stress and improve your sleep. Not bad for something you just considered a fun, leisure- time activity!

Related: Listening to music in the 21st century

Terri L. Jones

Terri L. Jones has been writing educational and informative topics for the senior industry for over 10 years, and is a frequent and longtime contributor to Seniors Guide.

Terri Jones