Seniors Enjoying the Benefits of Music

September 15, 2017

Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Our soul is composed of harmony.” That could explain why people are so greatly affected by music at every stage of their lives.  At The Saybrook at Haddam, we agree entirely with Da Vinci and incorporate music into daily life and special events in our independent retirement and assisted living community as often as possible.  Residents enjoy listening to music, attending concerts, singing and even playing instruments – and reap all the related social and creative benefits.  Researchers are also learning music may provide some valuable benefits to our brains.

steinwayA 2014 National Geographic article, “Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You’ve Taken Music Lessons,” explains that children who learned to play an instrument before age 9 enjoy the greatest brain benefits throughout life.  Those who play the longest, enjoy the highest cognitive benefits.  But those who play for a short time, or who learn as an older adult, still experience improvements in hearing, communication, memory, verbal fluency, planning abilities, and other cognitive functions.

In that same article, Alison Balbag, a professional harpist and Ph.D. candidate in gerontology (with a special focus on the impact of music on health throughout the life span), explained why. “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,” she said. “Playing music may be an efficient way to stimulate the brain, cutting across a broad swath of its regions and cognitive functions and with ripple effects through the decades.”

handbellchoir_sThis research reinforces our dedication to offering many musical activities at The Saybrook at Haddam.  We hold weekly sing-a-longs, monthly drum circles, have a bell choir, and welcome residents and guests to play the Steinway piano in our lobby when the mood strikes.  We host performances in our front parlor by larger groups such as the Greater Hartford Opera Ensemble, as well as individual artists who play the piano, Dixieland clarinet, guitar, flute, accordion, and other wonderful instruments.  We also travel to local venues to attend concerts such as Airborne Jazz at Brainerd Memorial Library and The Coast Guard Band at the Coast Guard Academy in New London.

Barry guitarIn the Safe Harbor Memory Care neighborhood, director Kathy Hallett believes music is a powerful tool that greatly affects those suffering with memory-related illnesses.  In addition to playing lots of music every day, Kathy encourages singing and dancing, welcomes performers as often as possible, and even brings in a professional music therapist to work with residents.

“Music is a memory embedded very deeply within us and memory care residents respond so well to it behaviorally,” Kathy said.  “We are fortunate to surround ourselves with a great deal of fun and therapeutic music.”

music colorIn other words, music is good for the brain, and for the soul!


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