Music Therapy for the Elderly


No matter your age, ability, or interests, music has a way of sparking wonderful feelings and memories within a listener, even if you’re not a professionally-trained musician. These feelings and emotions are often paired with an individual’s past experiences, providing comfort, contentment, and joy. Just one familiar song can make a bad situation or mood better in an instant.

Many seniors and elderly are facing difficult chronic conditions, such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and more. Within this aging population, they may also find themselves facing age-related issues and circumstances which affect their physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Thankfully, music therapy, which implies the use of musical techniques to accomplish the therapeutic goals of a client, has been proven effective for people of all ages and abilities, including the senior population, who are in need of emotional security and well being.

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What Is Music Therapy?

To address the unique emotional, physical, cognitive, and social needs of the elderly population, music therapy uses specific treatments that may include creation, movement, singing, and listening to music. With regular therapy sessions and strategies, the elderly population can take the skills and healing benefits gained through their musical therapy sessions and use them in other areas of their life.

Previous research has shown that music therapy can help in multiple areas of health and well being of seniors, including physical rehabilitation and movement facilitation, an increase in people’s motivation, emotional support for clients and their loved ones, and a creative outlet to express feelings and emotions.

How Does Music Therapy Work?

Music therapy for the elderly has been proven to be effective for a variety of symptoms and trouble areas for the senior population, such as their physical, spiritual, emotional, and psychological needs. In summary, music therapy is a clinical treatment plan between a therapist and a client to meet certain goals to enhance life through music.

By stimulating cognitive functioning, clients have the opportunity to learn new skills and partner them with previously instilled knowledge. Music therapy activates both long term and short term recall with exercises like sing-alongs, dancing, the use of rhythm instruments, and musical association.

For elderly clients who have cognitive conditions such as dementia, music therapy is helpful as an exercise in reality orientation. When they’re played music that is related to holidays, seasons, or a special moment or event in their life, dementia clients may realize their reality in a way that is empathetic to their needs, while providing an affirming sense of joy.

The Types of Music Therapy Treatments

Due to varying capabilities of the senior population, there is a wide range of music therapy treatment options available, including:

Name a Song: A popular activity amongst seniors and music therapists both is naming songs, based off of short clips. This exercise provides elderly individuals the ability to explore their mind for old favourite tunes, and conger up memories from different decades of their life.

Song Selection: As with any individual, many seniors enjoy listening to music from their generation most, and can likely recall their favourite artists from their younger years. In song selection exercises, clients can choose uplifting songs that help to bring their mind to a better place, and relive past experiences that bring positive emotions.

Playing Classical Music: Classical music is known to be relaxing and is commonly used as a way for people of all ages to unwind. By providing seniors with the opportunity to enjoy some downtime, such as before bed, they can begin to calm down and relax, creating a nurturing environment for a good night’s sleep.

Sing-Along: Much in the same way that seniors can find joy through song selection activities, providing the opportunity to sing-along to their favourite songs means that they can recall lyrics, and maybe even be inspired to dance if it’s within their abilities. For large groups, therapists can display the lyrics (much like in karaoke) or can provide printouts to smaller groups. Some therapists have found success in having performances of these songs, singing for family and friends during holidays.

Benefits and Expected Results of Music Therapy

Music therapy can help some of the elderly population maintain good physical and mental health, allowing them to recall old memories and fight off bouts of depression that are common in this age group. Other benefits include:

Speech Skills: Helping the older population make clearer decisions and speak more accurately, as it can help slow the deterioration of language and speech skills within dementia patients.

Cognitive Well-Being: Aiding the elderly process and keep their memories active. As music is a strong tie to past events and memories, clients can find joy and peace in just hearing a single song. For clients who have dementia, music that is familiar from their childhood can be effective in generating involvement and positive responses.

Physical Skills: Helping inspire exercise and movement for senior citizens through dance and playing rhythmic instruments. Through toe-tapping, clapping, and other dancing movements, seniors can find a greater range of movement, even if they’re not completely mobile.

For any avenue of music therapy for your elderly loved one, it’s important that the music resonates with them personally. Take the time to discuss their favourite music, their wedding song, or other music-related memories they may have. By allowing them a piece of their past, you’ll be increasing their quality of life in the future.

This post was sponsored by Complete Care Coordination.

At Complete Care Coordination in Montreal, we understand just how challenging finding the right therapy and care can be. If you’re looking for a caregiver in Montreal, or other senior care Montreal services, we’re here to answer your questions and help you find the assistance you need for your loved one.