Christmas lights on a piano keyboard

The benefits of music and dance for seniors

No matter what your holiday celebration looks like, chances are music is an important part of the festivities. Singing in a choir, playing traditional favourites on the piano, listening to popular seasonal tunes on the radio, or dancing in the New Year to a big band orchestra are all great ways to enjoy the season.

But there are even more benefits to be gained from enjoying music all year round. Scientists have been studying the neuroscience of music for decades, and suggest that we are hardwired to enjoy our tunes, and that it’s actually a biological function just like language. Here’s why music is good for us, cognitively, physically, emotionally, and socially:

Sing your heart out

According to research, we should all sing—even if we can’t carry a tune. Singing is a great aerobic activity that produces more oxygen in the blood, improves circulation and deep breathing, resulting in less stress and more “feel good” hormones. Singing in a group is even better, according to a study completed at Baycrest Health Science Centre in Toronto. Seniors attended a weekly one-hour singing program for 16 weeks. Assessed for general health, self-esteem, anxiety, emotions and quality of life pre- and post-program, participants came away with five positive benefits, including friendship, happiness, uplifting and positive feelings, and reduced anxiety.

Be a piano man (or woman)

It’s never too late to learn an instrument—and it could improve your memory. That was the finding of a study on seniors age 60 to 85 lacking any previous musical training. After just three months of weekly 30-minute piano lessons and three hours of practice per week, participants displayed faster and sharper memories. The control group had no change in the same abilities.

Listen and learn

Listening to Mozart in the background can help improve your memory—that’s what a small study cited in Psychology Today found. Interestingly, a Gustav Mahler composition didn’t have the same effect. But other research shows a symphony of benefits for seniors: better sleep, reduced stress, less pain and a boost to the immune system.

Dance the night (or day) away

Whether you choose ballroom, line, square, salsa, folk, or even the school of dance-like-no-one-is-watching (in your living room with the music up and the lights down), moving to any style of music is wonderful for mind, body, and soul. In seniors it improves aerobic capacity, muscle power, agility and balance, and gives opportunities to socialize with others—a key ingredient in the healthy aging equation. Added bonus: a better brain and improved mood! 

Chartwell offers a wide-range of engaging active living programming, including our popular Rhythm ‘n’ Moves program—a casual exercise class that combines upbeat music with movements. To learn more, click here.