It’s never too late to pick up a musical instrument. In fact there are many reasons why it’s a great idea, particularly in old age.

We normally hear about music education for children. There are many cognitive and social benefits to that aid a child’s development. As an older adult, there are long-term effects of these activities, as it can limit the loss of brain power.

Even a small amount of musical training can have lasting effects. But this doesn’t mean that those who have never played have missed the boat. The aging brain is plastic: that means it is able to learn new things all the time. So, should we consider an increase in music programs for those in the third age?

Playing music as a workout for the brain

Learning to play an instrument is a complex task that involves coordinating multiple sensory systems within the brain. Many instruments require precise coordination among the eyes, the ears and the hands in order to play a musical note. Using the sound as feedback, the brain prepares for the next note and so on. It’s all quite a brain workout.

The relationship between the motor and auditory parts of the brain is strengthened when physically playing music. Because playing music involves many different parts of the brain, even a short-term program for older adult musical novices can lead to generalized improvements in brain ability.

health and wellbeing

The worry is that playing an instrument will be too difficult for older adults. On the contrary, learning to play can provide a great sense of achievement and satisfaction.

Older adults relish the opportunity to learn something new. Cognitive benefits aside, music can also be a great social activity for older adults, facilitating social bonding and decreasing feelings of loneliness or isolation.

– Jennifer MacRitchie,

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