Saturday, 30 December 2017

A New Year's Resolution That's Actually Fun!

I am so pleased to host this guest post by writer, Karen Weeks. Karen perfectly captures why the arts are so important to us all - at any age! I've witnessed the healing power of music in my own life and in the lives of everyone I love. So why not make 2018 the year of learning a new instrument or just listening together to something new? Cue the music! 

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Lifelong learning is good for all of us, and I want to stress the importance of learning for the senior population.  According to the experts at Psychology Today, “Gerontological research has shown that enriched learning environments can help reduce cognitive decline due to aging as well as helping older adults deal with depression and poor self-image.” 

As a caregiver, you play a vital role in the well-being of your senior loved one.  At times your burden can be overwhelming both emotionally and physically.  The American Psychological Association notes that because of the strain of the duty, caregivers are at an elevated risk for depression, anxiety and grief.  It’s imperative that you find ways to not only tend your patient’s health needs but also your own.  That’s why I want to suggest music therapy as something you can partake in together. 

Music offers tremendous health benefits.  The National Alliance on Mental Illness recommends music in treatment for a variety of conditions, including stress and depression.  Music can improve the quality of your sleep, improve your sense of control, improve memory function, put you in a better mood, and motivate your exercise routine.  Some studies show that music can boost physical health by reducing cortisol, regulating heart and breathing rates, and improving pain management.  According to some scientists, your brain may even receive a boost of dopamine, a feel-good chemical, from engaging in music.  Other scientists believe music may even help prevent disease with improvements in the body’s immune system.

Learning is good for you, and music is good for you.  Learning to play an instrument appears to earn you bonus points.  Some studies suggest seniors with no previous musical education show marked improvement in memory and mental processing after just three months of learning.  

 Experts cited by MinnPost explain it this way:

“Music is something that people carry with them throughout their whole life….Even though during the later years many people face cognitive challenges, they see great benefit from music classes….People with severe memory loss may not be able to put a couple of complete sentences together, but they will remember lines of music from when they were very young.”

Seniors can learn music as individuals or with friends.  Group learning is excellent because everyone begins at the same level; it’s unifying, stimulating, and social.  Regardless of skill, participants enjoy better mental, physical, and social health.  It improves communication, sense of self, and empowers students to believe in themselves, making them feel worthy of learning new skills. 

Music lessons are also an opportunity for you as the caregiver to learn.  Why not reap the benefits of learning and music yourself?  Studies of caregivers and dementia patients reflect that musical engagement improved mood, memory, focus, and mental orientation along with other health benefits.  Because of results like these, many organizations are incorporating music into their programming.

If you haven’t played an instrument before, it’s an opportunity to learn a fun new skill and improve your own mental and physical well-being.  If you’re tight on time and energy, you can even participate through a website.  You can find the best online guitar lessons by visiting EquipBoard and engage from the comforts of home and at your convenience.

Lifelong learning is important to us all, and for seniors and their caregivers there are tremendous potential gains.  I especially recommend participating in some form of musical engagement.  Music offers great mental and physical health benefits, and learning an instrument is a particularly powerful tool in managing and improving well-being. 

After retirement, Karen was bored and struggled to find a new sense of purpose. She decided to learn a new skill and took a computer course. She learned how to build her website, Now, she tries new things all the time. She believes nothing is off limits to seniors.

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