Innovation Hub | Great Minds, Great Conversations | Can Music Improve Your Health?

Kara Miller meets with Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services patient Louisa Solano to talk about what’s on her iPod. (Photo Credit: Nathan Lamb/Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services)

ABBA, Patsy Cline, and Frank Sinatra are filling the earbuds of elderly people all over America. Why? Eldercare services and nonprofit organizations are increasingly using music as a therapeutic tool to stir up memories and soothe anxiety. Innovation Hub takes a look at the science behind these programs, as well as the lives that they’re changing.

Three Takeaways

  • Temple University music therapy professor Wendy Magee says that singing and music-related trivia can be enough to spark a person’s memory. She has worked with “people who, if you said to them, ‘What’s your name?’ they weren’t able to actually able to respond with their name. But if you started singing to them, they could complete the last word of a song.”
  • Music & Memory is a nonprofit that uses music to help seniors connect with their past – and improve their mood. Founder Dan Cohen says music engages our brain more than any other part of our senses, including sight and smell. “When someone is listening to their favorite music, the brain is lighting up lights up in many parts… And it is taking advantage of the parts of the brain that are still very functional,” Cohen says.
  • Innovation Hub talked with Elsie Stern, a patient who uses Music & Memory at Somerville-Cambridge Elder Services. She says that music from groups like ABBA not only remind her of younger days when she would go out dancing, but it also helps ease her anxiety.

More Reading

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