May 25, 2010

USA: How the Elderly in Your Life Can Benefit from Musical Experiences

BALTIMORE, Maryland / Associated Content / Society / May 25, 2010

By Nancy Bobby

Musical activities can be rewarding and meaningful to the senior citizens in your life

Providing meaningful and enjoyable activities for the senior citizen in your life is important for his/her physical and mental health. A variety of interesting activities can also contribute to the elderly person's quality of life. Of these, music may be one of the most rewarding to both seniors and caregivers.

Whether you care for a number of senior citizens in a group environment like adult daycare or assisted living, or you are the caregiver for an aging loved one, being able to share fun musical activities with your seniors will be an enjoyable experience for both you and them. Photo credit: anitapatterson

Benefit of Musical Activities for Senior Citizens

Seniors, as with many age groups, respond positively to the use of music in their life. Lively, upbeat music can help the person feel less lonely or isolated, particularly if in a group environment: singing with others is fun! Similarly, calm and soothing music can help to relax the elderly person and ease fear or anxiety. No matter the type of music, encouraging an elderly person to sing or participate in musical activities is a great way to help him/her express creativity as well as to communicate. Having them watch a musical performance provides the same benefits. So even if you personally are not musically inclined, it is easy to provide a number of fun and engaging musical activities for your senior citizen.

Singing is an Activity That Seniors Love

Singing is an easy activity to incorporate with the elderly in your life. If in a group environment, you can organize sing-a-longs and encourage the seniors to tell you what they like to sing. You may find that many will love to sing church hymns or "old-time" songs that they loved when younger. Don't worry if you don't know the melodies or words: there are many great sing along DVDs that you can use to get things going if you are not musically inclined. In fact, having the words available can be a bonus to help everyone participate easily.

Make it lively and make it fun. Encourage clapping, tapping, and even dancing if possible. Some of the most rewarding experiences with seniors come when a group is engaged in singing at the top of their lungs, everyone sharing an emotional bond through the music.

But what if you are caring for an elderly loved one at home? Although you may not have the benefit of singing as a group, you can still use sing along DVDs. Or try using watching old musicals like "Oklahoma" or "Carousel" as many have some great old songs that your elderly person is sure to enjoy. And if you don't know the words, you can easily look them up on line...or ask your senior to teach you!

No matter what you do, just don't be afraid to sing with your senior. He/she is not likely to notice or care whether you can hold a tune or not.

Using Musical Instruments in Your Senior Activities

Adding instruments to the musical activities you provide for your seniors can increase the fun and enjoyment for everyone. And there are a number of ways you can do this. Simple instruments like those found in an elementary school can provide many ways for the elderly to participate more fully in musical activities. You might want to consider things like triangles, xylophones, tambourines, bells, and even small laptop drums.

Another way to approach this is to encourage the senior to use instruments he/she may have played when younger, such as a piano. Having the senior play an instrument that is familiar and comfortable for him/her can be a very calming and soothing activity. And whether in a group experience or individually, both the person playing and those listening enjoy the music.

Consider Background Musical Activities for the Elderly

Having music playing in the background on a routine basis can set a mood, both relaxing and upbeat. Musical sounds like harp, guitar, other instrumental or even nature sounds can provide a calm and peaceful background. And for a lively experience, be sure to consider upbeat songs. You may even want to include music from the senior citizen's culture or homeland for an enjoyable and meaningful musical activity.

Other Musical Activities to Try With Your Senior

There are a number of other ways to use music in your senior activities. Simple games, like trying to guess a song, can be fun as well as promote memory, recall, and communication. If a group environment, consider something like karaoke. This could be a fun and entertaining activity for your elderly group! You can even plan an entire "karaoke night" to make it even more fun, and invite family and friends.

Another way to provide musical experiences for your senior citizen is through live performers. Whether you bring the senior to a performance, or have a musician come visit, this can be very enjoyable. Many musicians actually specialize in performing for the elderly and know just the right songs to get the seniors involved.

Music for Alzheimer's/Dementia Patients

When it comes to providing musical activities for seniors who have Alzheimer's, you will find that many of the same suggestions apply. Memory-impaired seniors respond to music in their life, whether by participating or listening. Music can play a large role in calming and soothing a person with Alzheimer's. You may also find that a senior with dementia or Alzheimer's will enthusiastically participate in musical activities that remind them of their younger years, with many remembering all the words to songs they sang as a child, while being uncommunicative the rest of the time. Alzheimer's patients also respond to music with a lively beat, often moving, dancing or clapping to the rhythm. Be creative, be enthusiastic, and most of all, be patient as people with Alzheimer's may not respond the way they are "supposed" to. But what matters here, as with all senior activities, is the experience rather than the result.

Have fun exploring musical activities with the seniors in your life. You, and they, will be rewarded with fun, and memorable experiences that everyone will enjoy and benefit from.[rc]

Nancy Bobby is a freelance writer and blogger who lives in the Baltimore, MD area. With her love for Walt Disney World, she authors a website and blog devoted to planning affordable Disney vacations. In addition, her experience with a parent suffering from Alzheimer's disease, and her current work in the eldercare industry have motivated her to share thoughts and information about senior care issues.

© 2010 Associated Content, Inc.