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The Therapeutic Value of Music

Music therapists can design programs that include music improvisation and movement to music.

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Music brings much joy to people of all ages. As it turns out, music is valuable as a therapy as well. If your senior has lost interest in life, why not bring back her vitality with a favorite song. Or reacquaint her with an instrument that will bring joy to others.

Q. Mom, who’s 80, has loved music all of her life but now doesn't seem so interested. How can I help her renew her love of music, and does music have a therapeutic value?

One great aspect of music is that it can be enjoyed throughout our lives. And music is, in fact, valuable as a therapy as well, according to the American Music Therapy Association, Inc. (AMTA). Music therapy is used by qualified professionals to effect positive changes in the psychological, physical, cognitive or social functioning of individuals who have health or educational problems.

According to the association, music can help the elderly increase or maintain their level of physical, mental and social/emotional functioning. “The sensory and intellectual stimulation of music is particularly important in helping seniors maintain a high quality of life,” said Dr. Andrea Farbman, AMTA executive director. “Individuals who have had strokes, persons with Alzheimer’s disease, and those experiencing other aging-related conditions, can also benefit,” she added. Music therapists assess individuals on various levels and design programs that include music improvisation, receptive music listening, song writing, lyric discussion and movement to music.

If you want to learn more about the therapeutic values of music or to locate a music therapist, visit the association’s website at

There’s much you can do as well to help your mom rekindle her love of music. If she has a radio, tape or CD player, or old record player, locate some music she might enjoy. Listen with her and encourage her to discuss any memories associated with the songs. If your mother is still able to get out, take her to a concert or a restaurant that features a pianist. Check your local newspaper for activities that might appeal to her or contact the area senior center to discover what special programs they have. Perhaps your mom at one time played a musical instrument. Would she be willing to resume the hobby and play for others on a volunteer basis? Hospitals and nursing homes are always looking for entertainers who are seniors.

If you can’t be there to help your mom yourself, encourage her to get together with others who enjoy music. Or hire a professional caregiver, such as one from the local Home Instead®, who can provide companionship for your mom, take her to special musical events and help foster her love of music.

Last revised: August 9, 2011

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