If you’re looking for a powerful way to connect with and inspire an aging adult in your life, music may be just the thing you’ve been searching for!
The Healing Power of Music for Seniors
The legendary composer Leonard Bernstein once said that “music can name the unnameable and communicate the unknowable.”
The soul singer Ray Charles agreed, saying: “Music is powerful. As people listen to it, they can be affected. They respond.”
Certainly, countless studies — and our own firsthand experiences — have shown us just how positive and impactful music can be for the elderly.
It is always heartwarming and exciting to see an older adult’s face light up when they hear a favorite song from their youth, or one that reminds them of friends and family. And a growing body of research shows that music doesn’t just help people feel good — it motivates the mind and fuels the body, in ways both large and small.
As one otolaryngologist from Johns Hopkins explains it:
“There are few things that stimulate the brain the way music does… If you want to keep your brain engaged throughout the aging process, listening to or playing music is a great tool. It provides a total brain workout.”
In fact, there is an entire field of study based around music therapy, or using musical expression as a way to help people “improve their emotional, physical and cognitive well-being,” as Healthy Aging puts it. Indeed, research has shown that music therapy can offer some incredible benefits for the elderly, including:
- Improving language and speech skills
- Helping with memory processing and recall
- Reducing (and perhaps even preventing) symptoms of dementia and cognitive decline
- Lowering stress and anxiety levels
- Improving sleep quality
- Boosting creativity and productivity
- Promoting faster healing and managing physical pain
In fact, as writer Anne-Marie Botek explains for Aging Care, in some cases music “may be even more powerful than traditional medical interventions, such as prescription medications and physical therapy exercises.”
Even on an informal, day-to-day level, sharing music can make an enormous difference for seniors. Listening to old tunes is a great way to lift your spirits on a dreary or difficult day. It can promote laughter and inspire gratitude, which have remarkable healing benefits in their own right.
Music can also help older adults to remain social. Talking about music or playing instruments together can be a wonderful conversation starter, helping you and your loved one connect over a shared interest or the memories that are closely tied to their favorite tunes. This can also help foster a connection between a senior and a new caregiver, while helping to liven up car trips and errands out in the community.
And don’t forget about movement! Music can inspire people of all ages to get a little more active through dance. Even casual dancing, like grooving or clapping along in a chair, can be a useful way to get the blood pumping. In the long-term, dancing can help improve coordination, flexibility, and endurance.
How can you get the music flowing?
- Encourage your aging loved one to choose a few favorite songs before a car trip.
- Put on vinyl records or CDs, with music matching the mood you’d like to set — for instance, peppy and upbeat songs to supplement happy days or soother songs for relaxing indoors during gray and rainy weather.
- Watch a classic movie musical or a recorded concert.
- When things get back to normal after COVID-19, see if your elderly loved one is interested in getting a subscription to a local musical experience, such as the Lyric Opera of Chicago or the Ravinia Music Festival.
- If your loved one plays an instrument or sings , encourage them to give you a show. If other people in your family are musical, give the senior a tambourine, triangle, or other easy percussion instrument so that they can join in during a family jam session.
Our Favorite Songs About Chicago
Here at Companions for Seniors, we absolutely love living and working in the Windy City. We live and breathe Chicagoland — and we always feel inspired when we think about the amazing area that we call home, which has been immortalized in song by everyone from The Blues Brothers to Old Blue Eyes himself.
Here are some of our favorite songs about Chicago to share with your elderly loved ones. How many has your family heard?
- Frank Sinatra: “My Kind of Town (Chicago Is)”
- Paul Butterfield Blues Band: “Born in Chicago”
- Fred Fisher: “Chicago”
- Chicago: “Take Me Back to Chicago”
- Jimmy Rogers: “Chicago Bound”
- Crosby, Stills & Nash: “Chicago (We Can Change the World)”
- Robert Johnson: “Sweet Home Chicago”
- Buddy Guy: “Meet Me In Chicago”
Companions for Seniors Is Here to Help
Ready to reach out for help in shouldering some of the day-to-day responsibilities of caring for an elderly loved one? Looking for a senior companion to help ensure that the senior in your life can remain independent and lead an active and enriched lifestyle — complete with their favorite movies, music, and foods? That’s where we come in!
At Companions for Seniors, our trained and bonded companions are passionate about empowering the elderly to live more independently. Our mission is to help seniors live with dignity in the comfort of their own home, while connecting them with their community and helping to nurture meaningful relationships.
Our companions are available on flexible schedules to spend time with the older adult in your life. Whether your loved one needs transportation services, a helping hand with everyday activities, or just a friendly face around the house, our staff can help give your senior loved one the personalized attention and support they need – while giving family caregivers like you a much-needed chance to rest and recharge.