The Benefits of Music for Older Adults


Revised. Originally posted Mar 10, 2021

Whether you are grooving to Louis Armstrong, rocking out to “Come Together” by the Beatles, or reading with Chopin playing in the background, music has the unique ability to pump us up or calm us down.

A powerful force that evokes strong emotions, music brings back heartwarming memories, and provides a way to express yourself. It also has some serious scientifically proven benefits to our health and wellbeing.

Benefits Of Music For Elderly Adults

Old folks playing guitar and singing in the guest room

I think music in itself is healing. It’s an explosive expression of humanity. It’s something we are all touched by. No matter what culture we’re from, everyone loves music.”

–  Billy Joel

Music Facilitates Communication

For families and caregivers, music can provide for togetherness, shared positive experiences. It can also open avenues of communication and interaction that otherwise may be unavailable.

Music-related activities in retirement living — including dancing, singing, playing musical instruments, listening to music and watching musical performances —spark discussions and  enhance communication by improving language abilities.

Music Helps Keep Seniors Active

Music can be highly motivating during any type of exercise, including walking, cycling, and working out with weights. The right music can encourage older adults of all ages and fitness levels to get more physical activity.  In turn, this helps seniors maintain independence by improving muscle strength, flexibility, heart health, bone density, and balance.

Music Benefits Mental Health

According to the National Institutes of Health, music has the power to evoke strong positive emotions and elevate your mood. Music can lower your body’s level of cortisol, a hormone that can contribute to feelings of stress and anxiety. It can also trigger other chemical reactions in the brain, stimulating positive feelings.

Music Improves Memory

Favorite songs tickle our memory in various ways. If you’ve ever gotten a song stuck in your head, you have an idea how easily music gets ingrained in our memory.

Daniel Levitin, the author of This Is Your Brain on Music, notes that the music of our teenage years is fundamentally intertwined with our social lives and therefore holds power over our memories. This is because there is something deeply meaningful about this period in our lives. It plays an immense role in our personal stories, and memories. As it turns out,  robust research shows that the nostalgia triggered by our favorite songs isn’t just a fleeting recollection of earlier times. Rather, the music literally brings our adult brains back to the passions of our youth.

For aging adults who have age-related cognitive decline—such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia or Parkinson’s disease—music has the power to actually bring back memories, slow age-related cognitive decline, and improve cognitive processing speed. And, since musical memories are one of the last things affected by Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, caregivers in memory care homes and Day Programs can use it to help give seniors a “cognitive boost”.

Music Keeps Your Brain Young & Connects Generations

By the time we turn 33, most of us have stopped listening to new music. Meanwhile, popular songs released in our early teens likely remain favourites for the rest of our lives. As it turns out, you may want to rethink this.

Experts suggest listening to what your kids or grandkids love. While listening to music that you know and like tends to cause the strongest response and dopamine release, unfamiliar melodies may stimulate your brain, keeping it young.  That’s because new music challenges the mind in a way that old music doesn’t. The unfamiliar beats force the brain to process the new sound, which creates new neural pathways. The pathways get stronger with repetition until the behavior – or sound – is the new normal.

Another reason to listen to new music?  It may prove to be a source of pleasure as you get used to hearing it. At the very least, it will give you a valuable springboard to help connect you with the younger generation.

Fun Musical Activity Ideas for Older Adults

Music is a hallmark of so many of the activities at ASC retirement communities.  Here are some of our favourite ways to bring music into a senior’s life:

  • Put on vinyl records or CDs, with music matching the mood you’d like to set — for instance, peppy and upbeat songs to supplement happy days or soother songs for relaxing indoors during gray and rainy weather.
  • Attend a live concert. Many communities offer monthly concerts, especially outdoor shows during the summer months. At All Seniors Care retirement living communities, music is a year-round affair! Ask your recreation coordinator for a schedule of upcoming events.
  • Watch a classic movie musical or a recorded concert.
  • Encourage your loved one to play an instrument. Hobbies, like playing music, can help increase self-esteem and is therapeutic for seniors. Playing an instrument is also brain protective! We love Drumming Workshops or incorporating bells into music groups.
  • Have a sing-along to a song such as “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.” Sing-a-longs can also help promote a sense of community and allow people to interact while singing aloud.
  • Create a personalized playlist for your loved one. Not only has technology made media available at the tip of our fingers, but music is also more readily available than ever. With the internet, you can find any song, from any era.

For someone experiencing memory decline, there are many ways to integrate music into their life.

  • Choose music they enjoyed as a teenager.
  • Encourage a loved one who previously played an instrument to try it again.
  • Watch a recording of a concert.
  • Sing along, dance and move to music together to boost energy.
  • Put on soft music in the evening to facilitate a calming transition to bedtime.

At All Seniors Care

Our independent and assisted living communities make music a focal point, with a special emphasis on well-known tunes that forge connections to pivotal events and evoke connections to long-ago memories.

If you’re looking for a retirement residence, always explore the social and artistic activities available. Research your senior housing options in AlbertaManitobaOntarioSaskatchewan, and Quebec to find the right senior housing option for you.

If you want to find out more about how our music activities enrich the lives of seniors, give us a call or schedule a visit.


Writer  – Julianna McLeod

Julianna is a health and wellness expert at All Seniors Care. Her mission is to create content that empowers seniors to form sustainable solutions for lasting health and happiness. She is an experienced writer, editor, and Recreational Therapist living in Toronto.



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