Music, the Brain, Aging, and Memory Diseases

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015. The choir is made up of people with dementia, their family members and volunteers at the Respite Ministry at the church.

Jack Horner leads singing as Mickey McInnish plays keyboards during the Side by Side Singers practice at First United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala. on Tuesday October 27, 2015.

We live with music throughout our lives — it surrounds people no matter what their age. Children, of course, love to sing at almost as soon as they are born, but music, even for those who are not musicians, is a part of the air people breathe. Interestingly, music appears to become even more important as people age and contributes to a higher quality in life in the elder years.

No one these days disputes that music can bring happiness, joy, peace, energy, and even some sort of healing to people of every age. Increasingly, however, we are learning that for fragile elders, music not only brings joy but also rekindles memories. So why doesn’t every community of older adults have a musician on staff or at least a musician in residence who can lead a chorus, a sing-along or hymn sing? I believe that organized music programs, and not just performances that people watch, belong in every community of aging adults.

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