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Music Therapy with Older Adults


The majority of adults 65-85-years-old are affected by some form of chronic condition. These may include heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, hypertension, and cancer. Seniors can also experience an array of other age-related changes to their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This is why music therapy can be so beneficial to older adults!



Music Therapy is the clinical and evidence-based use of music interventions to accomplish individualized goals within a therapeutic relationship by a credentialed professional who has completed an approved music therapy program. Music Therapy is an established health profession in which music is used within a therapeutic relationship to address physical, emotional, cognitive, and social needs of individuals. After assessing the strengths and needs of each individual, the qualified music therapist provides the indicated treatment including creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. Through musical involvement in the therapeutic context, individual's abilities are strengthened and transferred to other areas of their lives. Music therapy also provides avenues for communication that can be helpful to those who find it difficult to express themselves in words. Research in music therapy supports its effectiveness in many areas such as: overall physical rehabilitation and facilitating movement, increasing people's motivation to become engaged in their treatment, providing emotional support for individuals and their families, and providing an outlet for expression of feelings.

Goals of Music Therapy for Older Adults:

• Cognitive skills: Music can help seniors process their thoughts and maintain memories. Many people associate music with past events, and just hearing a song can evoke a memory even many years after an event. For dementia patients, music from their childhood or young adult years has proven to be effective in obtaining a positive response and involvement, even when the person can no longer communicate.

• Speech skills: Music therapy has been proven to help older adults answer questions, make decisions, and speak clearer. It can help slow the deterioration of speech and language skills in dementia patients; studies have shown that even when an Alzheimer’s patient loses the ability to speak, they can still recognize and even hum or sing their favorite song.


• emotional: Familiar enjoyable music can reduce aggressive behaviors. Group activities can promote positive, successful experiences with music while interacting with others. Successful experiences lead to increased self-esteem and foster self-expression and creativity.


• Physical Skills: Music can inspire movement in seniors. With music comes dancing, after all. Music and dancing promote coordination and can help with walking and endurance. Even if an older adult is not mobile, music can inspire toe tapping and clapping, thus getting the blood flowing once again.


• Social Skills: Increased social interaction with caregivers and peers is another benefit music therapy can offer seniors. It encourages bonding with others, which in turn can help alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression.

What does a session look like?

Music Therapy sessions for older adults may include singing as a respiratory exercise, chair dancing as physical activity, musical games to cognitively engage the group, and discussion and reminiscence. Music therapy gives seniors the opportunity to make choices, follow directions, and engage socially with their peers. The person-centered approach of music therapy helps to build a foundation of respect and rapport which can support non-musical goals.

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