Harmonize Your Health: 12 Unexpected Benefits of Music Therapy for Older Adults

Senior lady listening to music

Music therapy isn’t just about the music. It can improve your mood, help you cope better, and even strengthen your social connections—all of which are essential for well-being, especially as we age.

However, the power of music goes beyond structured therapy sessions. Studies have shown that music therapy for older adults offers a wide range of benefits, from improving cognitive function to reducing stress and anxiety.

Here, we’ll explore 12 ways music can enhance your life and 7 ways to inspire you to find your own rhythm, no matter your age or musical background. So settle in, put on your favorite reading music, and let’s get started!

Enhanced Memory and Recall

Music, especially familiar melodies and songs, is strongly linked to memory. Music can trigger vivid memories from the past, promoting cognitive stimulation and potentially slowing the effects of memory-related conditions.

Stronger Neural Pathways

Music activates a vast network of brain regions responsible for not just auditory processing but also memory, emotion, movement, and higher cognitive functions. This widespread activation can strengthen existing neural pathways, and even create new connections as your brain responds to the music’s rhythm and melodies.

Improved Focus

Music therapy often involves focused listening tasks, singing or playing instruments. This encourages concentration, working memory (holding information in mind), and the ability to switch between tasks—all part of our executive functions.

Better Communication Skills

Musical activities that involve lyrics, singing or naming songs can stimulate language centers in the brain. This can aid in word retrieval and verbal communication skills, particularly valuable for those who experience speech difficulties.

Mood Elevation and Stress Relief

Music has the power to evoke strong emotions, from joy to  tranquility. Music therapists use this to guide you toward positive emotional states. Upbeat melodies and rhythms can increase energy levels and reduce feelings of sadness.

Calming music paired with relaxation techniques is highly effective in reducing anxiety, agitation, and stress.

More Self-Expression

Music offers a nonverbal means of self-expression. Playing instruments, singing familiar songs or even moving to the music can provide a creative outlet for emotions that may be difficult to articulate with words, particularly for those struggling with communication difficulties.

Reduced Isolation and Loneliness

Group music therapy sessions create a sense of belonging. Sharing musical experiences with others, singing, playing together or simply listening and appreciating music, builds connections and combats the loneliness that is often experienced by older adults.

Increased Self-Esteem

Engaging in music therapy fosters a sense of accomplishment. Learning new skills (even simple ones like playing a percussion instrument), recalling familiar songs, and contributing creatively can boost self-confidence and positive self-image.


Group of seniors around a piano


Better Coping Skills

Music provides a healthy outlet for difficult emotions. Music therapists can use therapeutic music-making and listening experiences to help older adults identify their feelings, process challenging emotions, and develop effective coping mechanisms.

More Connection to Your Legacy

Music often connects us to significant times and relationships in our lives. Music therapy can help older adults revisit these memories, find meaning in their life journeys, and create a sense of legacy through sharing their musical preferences with loved ones.

Improved Mobility

Rhythmic music cues encourage you to dance, sway, or tap your feet. This can improve balance, coordination, and range of motion, and enhance overall movement fluidity. Music also has a strong influence on our perception of pain. It can act as a distraction, shifting focus away from discomfort.

Stroke Recovery

For older adults recovering from strokes or movement-related conditions like Parkinson’s disease, music therapy can play a role in rehabilitation. The rhythmic auditory stimulation of music has been shown to improve gait patterns, coordination, and motor control.

Music Therapy for Seniors: 7 Ways to Find Inspiration

  1. Find a Music Therapist: Look for certified music therapists (MT-BC) in your area. They often work in hospitals or offer private sessions.
  1. Targeted Playlists: Carefully create playlists curated to your preferences and desired emotional state. Uplifting, feel-good songs can combat sadness, while slow, mellow music promotes relaxation.
  1. Singing and Lyric Analysis: Singing familiar and well-loved songs can evoke positive memories and emotions. Discussing the meaning of lyrics with friends or writing their meaning in a journal can help you process emotions and offer a safe space to share your feelings.
  1. Drum Circle: Participants use simple percussion instruments (drums, shakers, tambourines) to create spontaneous music. There is no focus on skill or “correctness,” which removes pressure and promotes self-expression.
  1. Group Listening Session: This is a wonderful activity for all ages. Gather your loved ones and share meaningful songs from different periods in each other’s lives.
  1. Personal Anthem: Identifying a song that embodies personal strength or a life philosophy can be empowering, offering positive affirmations in challenging times.
  1. Community Groups: Many senior living communities, like Wyndemere, have singing groups, music-based programs, and more options tailored to older adults.

Senior couple playing guitar


Embrace the Vibrant Rhythms of Life at Wyndemere

Tired of the same routine? Wyndemere offers a harmony of social connections and engaging events to add more rhythm to your retirement lifestyle. Experience life in our community by reaching out to our team online or calling 630-755-5006 to schedule a personalized visit.