Provider Tip: Retirement Years are the Prime Time to Start Music Lessons

How old is too old to start something new? Are the golden years too late to learn to play an instrument, or to return to one you once played as a child?

Research in medical and social science suggests that if you are not already taking music lessons, you should not delay another day. As a trumpet teacher with years of experience in teaching adult beginners of all ages, I have long been convinced of what recent research is now confirming. Learning to play music, or honing existing musical skills, enhances the well-being of mature adult students. Participating in music is holistically healthy for you, and the older you are, the bigger the benefits seem to be.

According the National Institute on Aging, studies link people playing musical instruments to a lower risk for dementia (1). A National Endowment for the Arts study showed that the communication or dendritic connections in the brain increase and strengthen when older people are regularly exposed to music (2). Playing music has also been shown to reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness. (3, 4) But the benefits of learning to play music go well beyond staying sharp and being happy.

A study by Campbell of the Bath Spa University revealed that playing an instrument which requires air to produce a sound is an efficient method of controlling asthma symptoms in older age (5). The same study concludes that playing a musical instrument can be a beneficial way of exercising the finger joints, and exercising these joints has been associated with a reduction in the inflammation of arthritis. According to Kiszer of Joyful Noises Music Studio, a studio which specializes in teaching music to seniors, the benefits of musical training for mature adults also includes a boost in the body’s resistance to disease (6). Choosing an instrument such as the trumpet ensures a total body workout without the risks of injury often associated with sports. Trumpet playing engages the small joints of the hands, works the full respiratory system, and helps to develop upper limb, facial muscle, and core strength.

The benefits of taking music lessons extend beyond the physical elements of body and mind and are evidenced in the music student’s social life. Participation in musical activities has shown to encourage the development of a sense of self-identity, often diminished during the retirement years. Further, it has been shown that struggling to communicate effectively may precipitate depression in the elderly. (5) Being able to play an instrument provides a powerful mechanism for emotional, creative and spiritual expression that supersedes the limitations of words. (6) Learning to play music stimulates a sense of accomplishment, which develops confidence, and, in turn, this may encourage the growth of established relationships or the development of new friendships.

Are music lessons only for children?

My own experience and the growing pool of research studies focused on mature adults clearly indicate otherwise. Mature adults tend to be quick learners. They understand commitment, are dedicated to regular practice, and get results. If you are not already taking music lessons, do your homework and see for yourself how much you will benefit from making music. Seek out an encouraging, patient teacher who will pace the lessons to align with your musical goals. If you have never played an instrument before, find a teacher with experience in teaching mature adult beginners. Resist the urge to procrastinate any longer, connect with a great instructor, and embark on the adventure of making music.

Author:

Eddie Lewis
Trumpet Lessons

 

References:

  1. National Institute on Aging: What does it all mean for you?http://www.nia.nih.gov/HealthInformation/Publications/BLSA/02_what.htm
  2. Seniors Digest: B Flat to Stay Sharp?
    http://www.poststat.net/pwp008/pub.49/issue.1108/article.4588/
  3. Music after 50: Health Benefits of Playing Music After 50
    http://www.musicafter50.com/health-benefits-of-playing-music-after-50/
  4. American Music World: Seniors Get Healthy with Music
    http://www.americanmusicworld.com/page/397377366
  5. Royal United Hospital Bath: An Exploration into How Participation in Musical Activities Can Improve the Health and Well-Being of Older Adults
    http://www.ruh.nhs.uk/art/projects/documents/Rosanna_Campbell_Dissertation.pdf
  6. “Why Retirement Can Be an Excellent Time to Learn to Play an Instrument”, Kiszer, R., Southwest Florida Retirees Magazine (April 2009)
    http://joyfulnoisesmusic.com/Seniors/

One Comment

  1. WHAT A GREAT ARTICLE ! I’M 79 YEARS YOUNG AND HAVE BEEN, AND STILL AM, AN ACTIVE FLUTIST/TEACHER. THIS ARTICLE IS LONG OVER DUE…..

    DON RUSSELL

    Posted October 30, 2011 at 7:08 pm · Permalink