If you've ever bopped along to a good tune or danced the night away, you know how powerful music can be. So how do you solve a problem like aging? Well, it's much easier than holding a moonbeam in your hands.
Modern technology has made it easier than ever for seniors to medicate their minds with melody. Follow these three tips to release your inner Von Trapp Family Singers and get in touch with the sound of music.
1. Learn to "Do-Re-Mi"Early in the musical, The Sound of Music, Fraulein Maria sings "Do-Re-Mi" to teach the Von Trapp children the notes of the major scale. The children had grown up in a house without music. What a shame! Singing stimulates the immune system and decreases stress hormones. It also improves cardiovascular function while calming the central nervous system. Some think music might even be as effective as medication in reducing the symptoms of dementia and Alzheimer's. By teaching the children how to sing, Maria not only raised their spirits, but also changed their lives.
With this in mind, I've recently come to appreciate the app, SingFit, which may have the potential for seniors to reduce the effects of cognitive disease by allowing individuals or groups to sing and record their favorite hits from any era. The built-in lyrics engine prompts the correct song lyrics at the right time. This helps seniors with dementia to join in the singing experience.
Similar to SingFit, the Singtrix karaoke machine helps seniors "climb every mountain." Singtrix is the next generation of karaoke machine. It transforms your home into a studio and your senior into a star. The Singtrix was recently featured on the ABC daytime television program The View.
Remember: When you know the notes to sing, you can sing most anything.
2. Enjoy "a Few of My Favorite Things"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens may do it for Maria, but maybe bright copper kettles aren't your thing. Finding a favorite musical thing may be the key to healthy aging for seniors.
A 2013 McGill University study found that emotionally significant music was critical to healthy aging by stimulating the release of dopamine, a brain neurotransmitter. The Alzheimer's Association suggests this may maintain or improve senior brain function. In fact, a New York-based nonprofit, Music & Memory, gives seniors iPods so they can listen to their favorite songs.
Seek out a few favorite things in your senior's life. Just about every song you can imagine is available in the iTunes store, Amazon Market, or Google Play. Provide your senior with an iPod or another device which can play music and help keep her sharp.
Just as Maria said, music is great “when the dog bites, when the bee stings, or when you're feeling sad. Simply, remember your favorite songs, and then you won't feel so bad.”
3. Don't Be "The Lonely Goat Herd"At the musical's climax, Captain Von Trapp strides out to the stage. He sings Edelweiss, a sad goodbye to his beloved homeland of Austria. His emotions overcome him; his voice breaks. The entire Von Trapp family joins him on stage to bolster him. Soon, the audience joins in and the collected voices build to a memorable crescendo.
Music means you never need to be alone. And that's a good thing, according to The National Institute on Aging. Studies suggest social seniors are less likely to develop age-related mental problems. As an added benefit, social seniors live longer. Socializing prevents a feeling isolated and leads to better quality of life. Sing! Karaoke by Smule helps tech savvy musical seniors join a chorus around the world. Choose a song and sing along. You can go solo or join your voice to new friends anywhere.
Shy seniors don't even need to participate to get the benefit of music. Some research shows that passive music consumption can also help the senior brain. Websites or apps like Vevo, Spotify, or Pandora are manageable technology for many seniors. Most have free, advertising-supported services, or you can pay to remove advertisements. ZenVibe is an app designed to provide music designed to help listeners de-stress and meditate. You can personalize your session according to the level of nirvana you desire.
But, there's more to music than just singing. According to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America, practicing musical instruments can have therapeutic effects. Music practice helps seniors reap brain rewards while not overburdening cognitive functioning.
ConclusionYou don't need to be a Tony winner to enjoy these senior-friendly musical technologies. If you learn to love the sound of music, you are taking a huge step to bidding "so long, farewell" to both loneliness and dementia.
Shayne Fitz-Coy is the Co-CEO and President of Alert-1, an aging-in-place technology company headquartered in Williamsport, Pennsylvania with offices nationwide. Shayne has a Bachelor's degree in Psychology from Harvard College and a Masters in Business Administration from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Shayne hails from Maryland, and now calls the Bay Area home.