It makes sense in a culture that invented iPods and ear buds that music is emerging as a potent force for helping us stay mentally fit as we age. Unresponsive nursing home patients are finding their old, awake-to-the-world selves through playback of some of their favorite tunes.
Scientists are investigating the therapeutic powers of specific rhythms. And across the country, groups of seniors are participating in drum circles. Playing music, it turns out, can help sharpen the brain and heal the body, and it’s especially beneficial as we get older – even if you can’t read a note.
If you’ve never tickled the ivories or coaxed a jazz tune from a trumpet, the web can help you get started, from finding a music teacher in your neighborhood or connecting with a local group, to learning how to play chords via video or grasping the foundations of music theory on interactive sites.
What’s so good About Playing Music?
Before you start your musical journey, you might wonder what makes the trip worthwhile.
- Exercise the brain
- Fight memory loss
- Lower blood pressure
- Ward off depression
- Inspire creativity
- Increase productivity
- Decrease the incidence of job burnout for those still working
- Reduce stress
- Help you socialize
- Be an emotional outlet
Playing a musical instrument increases the amount of gray matter in the motor, auditory and visual-spatial areas of the brain, according to the Journal of Neuroscience, which in turn may reduce age-related mental decline.