They say that music is good for the soul, but can it also benefit seniors’ health and help to uplift their mood?

As your loved ones get older, many things can affect their mood and make them feel down.

They may need to depend more on family and caregivers, making them feel anxious and frustrated. Losing their independence can similarly make seniors feel lonely and socially isolated if they are unable to get out and about as much as they used to.

If an older adult is recovering from an illness or in constant pain, they could be feeling stressed or despondent.

Depression can also affect seniors, with statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that over seven million American adults over the age of 65 experience it each year.

When it comes to your elderly loved ones’ physical, emotional and social health, you want to make sure they are happy and in high spirits. Music may be one option to consider when looking for ways to help elevate mood in seniors.

The power of music

Everyone has their favorite songs that instantly make them feel happier, or that trigger other emotions when they are played. Have you ever done exercise listening to music and instantly worked harder or run faster when a song with a good beat came on?

Music is a powerful tool that can affect your mood, as well as help you to revive memories of people, places or experiences. But are there health benefits from listening to music?

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is used to address different patient needs including physical, emotional or social. A board certified music therapist will put together a treatment program tailored to the specific needs of an individual or group. Treatment may include listening to, creating or talking about music or playing instruments and singing.

Caregivers and family members may also use music to support closer connections and to provide comfort, meaning or purpose to daily life.

How can music help elevate mood in seniors?

A recent study found that music therapy can help older people who have dementia by alleviating depression and improving quality of life.

Incorporating music into your elderly relative’s home care plan can help them to relax and feel less anxious, especially if they are recovering from an illness or accident. A soothing melody can create a calm environment, helping your loved one to recover quicker.

Senior people may also feel socially isolated from family and friends, which can negatively affect their mood. They may also be struggling to keep their independence, causing feelings of frustration. Music can help to improve their self-esteem and encourage them to explore their creativity. If they are able, joining a choir or singing group may bring about a new sense of belonging and enjoyment to their lives.

For seniors in need of Alzheimer’s and dementia care, music can help to improve their memory recall, allowing your elderly loved ones to reminisce and share their experiences with you. Talking about music and why a song is particularly important to them can take a senior back to a happy time in the past, and you can be there to experience it with them.

What is the best type of music to listen to?

Everyone has their personal music tastes, with different people enjoying various types of music. Then there are specific songs that hold memories for certain people. It is therefore important for you or the caregiver to work closely with your elderly loved one to determine what music or musical activity would be best to elevate their mood in their specific circumstances.

A good place to start is to search through any old music records your elderly relative may have around the house or stored in the loft. This will give you an idea of what they enjoy listening to. One or more of these songs may hold a personal connection to the senior and trigger a precious memory, helping to uplift their mood as they reminisce about a loved one or happy time.

This is particularly useful for dementia or Alzheimer’s patients, as music can take them back to a time they remember. Listening to familiar songs can be incredibly therapeutic, making the senior feel more relaxed in surroundings that may seem unfamiliar to them.

Different types of music to elevate mood in seniors

Different genres of music will have varying degrees of success for uplifting the spirits of seniors. In general, the best style of music for elevating moods is an upbeat, rhythmic choice that seniors can tap their foot along to.

Here are a couple of suggestions:

  • Big Band and Swing: Big band numbers tend to have lively, uplifting melodies accompanied by an array of musical instruments that seniors can focus on and feel the rhythm to. Have a look at tracks by Frank Sinatra, Glen Miller, or Count Basie.
  • Jazz: Jazz is another excellent choice for seniors. The smooth sound of the saxophone can help them to feel calm, while the uplifting improvisation keeps every song fresh. Look for music by Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, and Ella Fitzgerald.
  • Rock ‘n’ Roll: For seniors over 70 who remember the ‘50s, how about Elvis Presley’s greatest hits or other rock and roll stars such as Chuck Berry or the Everly Brothers? With foot-tapping beats, seniors can’t help being transported back in time to a dance hall.
  • Musicals: If your elderly loved one enjoys Broadway musicals, why not use show tunes to uplift their mood? Each song has a story behind it, and seniors can sing along to the catchy numbers. Try and find some of the older Broadway shows, such as Guys and Dolls, Carousel, Oklahoma, or A Chorus Line. Chances are your senior relative will recognize one or two of the songs, which can help with memory recall.
  • Classical Musical: To encourage a calmer, more uplifting mood, melodic pieces such as classical music work well. Listen to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons or Pachelbel’s Canon in D.

Final thoughts

Music plays a big part in most people’s lives, such as listening to the latest tunes on the radio, seeing a Broadway show, or collecting back catalogs of your favorite artist’s work. And most people will probably have a song or two that triggers strong emotions or memories whenever they hear it played.

It is also clear that music can benefit health by helping to relieve stress, improve self-esteem, and lower anxiety. For seniors especially, music can encourage a relaxing environment, give them something else to focus on in times of illness or distress, and help improve recovery.

So can music really help elevate mood in seniors? Yes, most definitely.

Gary Simmons is a Certified Senior Advisor and Case Manager for A Hand to Hold. He strives to make the home care experience a better one for seniors and their families. Gary Lives in Atlanta, GA with his family.