The benefits of listening to music as we age are well-documented – music evokes emotion, helps us engage with our environment, and can also get us moving! If you haven’t witnessed the joy music can bring to even the eldest among us, watch this moving video of a 5-year-old piano prodigy playing for his biggest fan, a 101-year-old woman.
Once you dry your eyes, consider the fact that music can do even more for your aging soul – if you’re the one making the music, that is. Take a look at these studies that point to the major role music can play in cognitive enhancement and development.
A 2003 study revealed that seniors ages 75 to 80 who frequently played a musical instrument were less likely to develop dementia that those who rarely played. In fact, musical practice was deemed more effective than other brain-training exercises such as reading, writing, or doing crossword puzzles.
And it’s never too late to get started playing music. In a 2007 study, a group of seniors ages 60 to 85 with little prior musical training received six months of intensive piano lessons, while a control group of seniors received no training. The experimental group showed improvements on tests of working memory, perceptual speed, and motor skills, while the control group did not show these improvements.
Musical practice can also combat the deterioration of hearing as we age. A 2011 study from Northwestern University revealed that musicians between 45 and 65 years old were better equipped to hear speech in noisy environments, and also possessed better levels of auditory memory (the ability to recall what you heard) than their non-musical peers.
“Musicians appear to be less susceptible to age-related degenerations in the brain, presumably as a result of their daily musical activities,” says neuroscientist Gottfried Schlaug.
Rather than chalking up memory and hearing loss to the inevitable ravages of aging, why not pick up an instrument and give your brain a workout?