Ask St. Ann’s – Is Music Therapy Beneficial For Seniors?

Is Music Therapy Beneficial For Seniors? By Kim Petrone, MD

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” 
—Ronald Reagan

As we age, we can have days filled with loneliness, boredom and helplessness. This is especially true of seniors in long-term care settings. Adding music therapy to their routine can have them singing a happier tune.

Therapeutic and fun

Music triggers the brain’s auditory, physical and emotional centers, even in people with dementia. Playing or listening to music encourages them to move, helps blood flow to the brain and enhances range of motion, balance, strength and endurance. The sensory and intellectual stimulation it provides can significantly improve seniors’ quality of life.

Senior living communities provide music therapy for residents as a way to promote wellness, manage stress, alleviate pain, express feelings, enhance memory, improve communication and promote physical rehabilitation.

What to look for

If music is an essential part of your older loved one’s life, choose a senior living community that has music therapy professionals on staff. For example, St. Ann’s Home currently has six board-certified music therapists working with seniors one-on-one and in groups. There are many benefits to this approach:

Daily interactions: Full-time music therapists know the seniors they work with. They have plenty of opportunities to observe and accurately assess their emotional well-being, physical health, social functioning, communication abilities and cognitive skills, based on musical responses.

Interdisciplinary care: The music therapist’s assessment and recommendations help inform the multidisciplinary care team that works toward each resident’s healthcare goals. The therapist’s daily interactions with the nurses, doctors and therapists who care for your loved one will ensure they stay updated on his or her progress.

Timely and safe: If the music therapist is concerned about your loved one’s ability to participate in a music intervention, they can consult with physical, speech, occupational and recreational therapists in real time. Together, they can make modifications to ensure he or she can participate safely.

Community: People come together around music, so it’s a beautiful way to socialize and experience community. With music therapists on staff, seniors have access to weekly group therapy or individual sessions as well as activities and events. For example, St. Ann’s residents can join an adaptive hand-bell choir or an intergenerational choir with students from a local elementary school.

Ending on a happy note

Getting older is something we can’t avoid. But with music therapy as an essential part of the continuum of care, we can stay young at heart and happy into our senior years. Now that’s something to sing about!

 St. Ann’s Community also offers caregiver support through its continuum of eldercare services. Physician Kim Petrone is medical director of St. Ann’s Community and the Rochester General Wound Healing Center at St. Ann’s. She is board-certified in internal medicine and geriatrics and has been providing medical care for seniors at St. Ann’s since 2005. Contact her at kpetrone@mystanns.com or 585-922-HEAL (4325), or visit www.stannscommunity.com.