As another school year begins, I usually get an influx of kids wanting to take private music lessons. But my studio is not limited to children alone. I often have adults wanting to learn to play a new instrument or hone their skills on an instrument they haven’t played in years. It is not as difficult to learn (or re-learn) to play an instrument as you think, and there are many benefits to doing so.
1. Improvement in Cognitive Tasks–Playing an instrument as little as an hour a week for a few months increases brain activity in the areas of hearing, memory and hand coordination. Long term effects include better word recall, nonverbal memory, and cognitive flexibility.
2. Increases the Capacity of Your Memory–Learning to play an instrument helps to sharpen the memory thus making learning a foreign language easier and making one more perceptive to interpreting the emotions of others.
3. Refines your Time Management and Organizational Skills–It takes organization to learn to play a piece of music.
4. Relieves Stress–I probably don’t have to tell you that music is relaxing, but did you know that the creation of a simple vibration of the instrument against the body can significantly lower a musician’s stress level? Playing any instrument helps release endorphins in your body, thus reducing levels of stress.
5. Fosters Your Self-Expression–Playing music becomes an outlet for the expression of emotions, builds confidence and self-esteem and provides a sense of independence and identity.
6. Teaches Discipline, Responsibility and Perseverance–Learning to play an instrument takes time and effort, patience and perseverance. It takes focus and repetition to learn scales and songs.
7. Enhances Coordination–Reading a piece of music requires the brain to convert the notes into specific motor patterns while also controlling breathing and rhythm at the same time. In addition, most instruments depend on your ability to use your fingers, arms and legs to perform different tasks simultaneously.
8. Improves Mathematical Ability–Whether you realize it or not, music is math. Playing various rhythms and being able to count rhythm as you play improves math skills and learning theory involves understanding a variety of mathematical concepts.
9. Health Benefits–Playing music calms the mind and body, reduces blood-pressure, focuses the mind and reduces ADD, insomnia, and depression. Playing musical instruments can also be a great form of exercise. Get out those drums!
10. It’s just FUN–Do I need to say anymore?
My name is Kathy Lindberg and I am thrilled that you are here. If you have spent any time exploring the website, you know that I am a board-certified music therapist and that I work with older adults and those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia. What you might not know is that my life has been touched by this disease. Both my maternal grandmother and my aunt were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and communicating with and caring for them became a challenge. Yet we found common ground….music.
I remember going to visit my aunt in a long term care facility. I recall sitting with her, taking her hand and greeting her only to hear her say, “Who are you?” No matter how prepared you think you are, nothing really stops the feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you realize your family member doesn’t remember your shared life experiences anymore. In that situation it was time to create some new experiences with my aunt…through music. I began singing and my aunt came alive. She smiled, she laughed, she sang and she connected with me, my cousin and her peers. It brought a smile to my face.
I KNOW music reaches the deepest part of us. I have seen the tears of joy in the eyes of family members when their demented loved one emerges from the fog and expresses themselves through music and connects with them. I have seen residents in nursing homes who isolate themselves come to a group and interact with their peers. I have been a part of building relationships of people who live together but remain alone. I have been blessed over and over as residents share with me who they are and teach me new things.
I LOVE what I do and I KNOW music helps connect people. I am looking forward to sharing my passion for older adults and music as we share stories, resources and connect with one another.
Let the journey begin…
A Caregiver’s Guide to Making Connections to People with Dementia
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