The Benefits of Learning to Play Music Late in Life

Jul 6, 2022

While many people often think about learning to play music as a young person’s activity, the fact is it’s never too late to pick up an instrument. What’s more, there are plenty of reasons why doing so later in life is still a great idea!

Of course, we normally hear lots of reasons to get kids into music early. There are many benefits, including cognitive, academic, and even social. All of which are beneficial to child development. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that these benefits extend much later in life, and can actually have positive long-term effects for adults as well.

Even the smallest amount of musical training can bring big benefits! Of course, that doesn’t mean that those who have never played an instrument are missing out. In fact, the aging brain is still very flexible, and can continue to learn and benefit from new things.

With that in mind, we’ve got a few important reasons even older adults should consider picking up an instrument!

Cardio for Your Brain

One thing no one can deny about learning to play an instrument is that it is a complicated task that requires the coordination of several parts of the brain at once. In fact, many instruments require cooperation between the eyes, the ears, and the hands in order to create the proper musical note. With the resulting note as feedback, the brain can then prepare for the next note, and the note after that, etc. Clearly, the act of performing music is a whole-brain workout!

What’s more, the relationship between your motor functions and the auditory area of the brain is strengthened by learning a musical instrument. This could explain why adults who have been trained to play a particular melody have a better representation of music in their brain than adults who have merely been trained to listen to the same melody.

It’s easy to see how playing music uses many different parts of the brain. Furthermore, it’s easy to understand how even a short-term musical program for older adults can have a profoundly positive impact on the aging mind.

Workout for Your Fingers

Obviously, your brain isn’t the only thing that gets a workout when you play music. Most instruments, from piano to guitar to trumpet, utilize a lot of complex finger motions and sequences, all performed as part of a coordinated effort. This makes it ideal for aiding in the dexterity of hands and fingers.

In fact, piano lessons have even been used to help stroke victims regain hand function. The immediate feedback in the form of the note played is also important, as it reinforces each hand movement, reducing errors, and helping the musician to work towards moving at a more regular pace.

But music isn’t only great for cognitive and motor rehabilitation. Even those in good overall health can benefit. Learning to play an instrument not only slows mental and physical decline, it can also allow for the development of new skills!

That’s right! Older adults can actually improve the rate of learning new motor skills – even ones not related to playing music!

The love people have for making music is of particular importance for this benefit, because learning to play music is difficult, and a passion for it helps encourage sustained effort and practice. Ultimately, the more someone learns, practices, and performs, the higher the benefits become.

Health & Wellbeing

Many people worry that learning to play an instrument will be too difficult for older adults to manage. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth! Rather, learning to play an instrument can bring a great sense of achievement and satisfaction. Many people relish the chance to learn something new.

Even ignoring the amazing cognitive benefits older adults can gain from learning to plan an instrument, there are also fantastic social benefits. Learning to plan an instrument can be a group activity, facilitating bonding and helping to lessen feelings of loneliness or isolation.

Furthermore, music programs have been linked to improvements in the immune system. Specifically in the presence of antibodies and improvements in heart rate and blood pressure. While the exact reason for this is still unknown, one theory is that music reduces stress.

Closing Thoughts

Caring for our oldest generations is an important task, and it’s wise to understand how to do it best, especially in terms of mental and physical health, as well as general personal enjoyment. With the plethora of benefits that playing an instrument provides, it makes sense that it would be beneficial to have as wide a variety of musical activities available for older generations.

Our society seems to look at the latest stage of life as a decline from the “peak” of mid-life. But that’s simply not true! Instead, late-life is a time where we are once again open to new opportunities! There are few times in life where we have such a chance to develop.

Activities like singing in a choir, or learning to play the piano can offer a chance to try something new, with a new group of people, and provide a bunch of benefits to health and well being along the way.

If you’re looking for a way to get into music later in life, check out all our programs for adults, and our Seniors Connecting Through Music class in particular!