Benefits to Making Music in Your Senior Community

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Maxine Alburty-Spencer, 87, hasn’t let living in a senior community stop her from pursuing her passion for music. The only difference is she has an even broader audience to perform for, as her music group, Quartet XI, frequently plays at The Terraces at San Joaquin Gardens in Fresno, California, where Spencer is a resident.

Inviting performing groups to senior communities is nothing new. But more frequently, today, the senior residents, themselves, form part (or all) of the group. In addition to performing within her community and beyond, Spencer gives lessons, to seniors and youngsters alike, on the grounds of the Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC).

Residents of The Terraces are fortunate to have a true pro, who has been playing violin for 80 years, within the community to nurture their love for music and to teach lessons. But the great thing about music-making within a senior community is that anyone, of any age or ability level, can begin to learn if they have the desire.

Benefits of Music-Making for Seniors
Extensive research has been done to show the academic, intellectual, social and emotional benefits of learning to play a musical instrument for school-age children. But not as many studies have been done that show the benefits of music-making for adults or senior citizens. The research that has been published, however, shows the same benefits for healthy seniors as for youth. Let’s take a look at some ways making music within a senior community environment can keep residents happier and healthier.

1. Improved health – Research shows that seniors in three major metropolitan areas who participated in a musical group actually had fewer doctor’s visits and less illness. In addition, playing certain instruments or even marching in a band can improve dexterity and aerobic capabilities, respectively, while singing has been shown to improve respiratory function in healthy seniors.

2. Keeps seniors engaged and active. – Anyone who has discovered a passion for music after picking up an instrument and become proficient knows that music-making is just fun. The act of creating something of beauty in a community setting keeps seniors engaged. Many seniors who join bands or orchestras within their senior communities, or even a nearby town, keep coming back.

3. Learning a new skill improves cognitive function and self-esteem – Seniors who recently retired may be struggling with their sense of self. Without a career to provide a sense of accomplishment and purpose, retirees may wonder what to do with their time and, more importantly, how to keep their mind sharp. Learning a new musical instrument is not easy, whether it’s attempted as a child or later in life, but the sense of pride and achievement, as well as the mental benefits, are strong at any age.

Ready to Make Music?
So, you’ve decided you want to fill some of those hours in retirement with music. Where do you begin? Ask your activities director about music-making opportunities in your senior community or beyond, in the greater community. If you are already proficient in an instrument, you might consider local church or community groups, which may require an audition.

Even if you haven’t picked up an instrument since the recorder in grade school, it’s not too late to learn. Contact local music stores about the possibility of lessons. You may be able to rent or borrow an instrument if you don’t want to invest extra money.

Starting a Music Group in Your Community

If you already play, ask your activities director about finding a few other seniors in your community who play complementary instruments and ask about putting on a short concert.

Chances are your activities director will love the idea of free entertainment that comes from right within the community. You can pick a few favorite classical or “pops” numbers, schedule weekly practices, and in a few months you’ll be ready to reveal your project to the community. Don’t forget to pick a fun name for your performing group. There could be great musical talent living right next door, but you won’t know until you ask.

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