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Music for a Better Life

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Reap the benefits by striking a chord and tuning in.

Babies and young children exposed to music — and especially to music lessons — experience superior brain development compared with those who don’t, studies show. What’s more, science confirms the same truth on the other end of the spectrum: Interacting with music can keep you cognitively spry well into your later years, even if you’ve suffered brain trauma or decline.

Listen Up

One study, published in the journal Brain, divided 60 stroke patients into three groups: One listened daily to music of their choosing, a second group listened to self-selected audiobooks, while a third did neither. Researchers tested the patients at one week, three months and six months post-stroke and discovered that those in the music-listening group scored better on tests of verbal memory and focused attention than those in the audiobook and control groups. Other studies found that listening to familiar songs ignited memories and that seniors performed better on certain cognitive tasks when listening to instrumental music in the background.

Play Time

Even more powerful is making the music yourself. A 2013 study in The Hearing Journal concluded that after three months of weekly half-hour piano lessons and three hours of practice, adults ages 60 to 85 without previous musical training boosted their memory and mental-processing speeds. Also in 2013, researchers in Spain showed that seniors who took lessons and practiced daily performed better after four months than those who did other stimulating tasks such as physical activity, painting lessons or computer training. Instrument training has also proven to aid rehabilitation from brain injury.

Get Your Move On

Moving to music can also combat cognitive decline. Seniors who took a weekly, 90-minute dancing lesson over 18 months gained more cognitive benefits than those who did 90 weekly minutes of strength training, concluded a 2017 German study, reported in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience. Benefits came from participants learning various routines and steps. (As a bonus, the dancers also improved their balance — a benefit the strength trainers didn’t experience.)

Tune In

Spectrum Retirement Communities provide music opportunities to enhance cognitive skills. Memory Care communities offer Music and Memory programs to stimulate the mind called Spark Memories Radio Program. For opportunities in your Spectrum community, connect with your fun director.