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National Care Home Open Day - How music impacts our lives!

29th June

National Care Home Open Day has been running for eight years, it is an annual celebration where care home residents, families, friends, dignitaries and community groups, businesses and service providers usually come together to take part in a host of fun events and activities.

The pandemic has led to changes which is disappointing, but we aim to keep everyone safe. This year we will be opening Swarthmore Residential Care home virtually. This year we are looking at celebrating the history of music and how it affects our lives!

It is a well-known fact that music stimulates minds and musical activities also encourages the engagement of singing, clapping, moving of feet and dancing.

Ann-Marie and Jeanette ensure that our residents have numerous musical activities available on a regular basis. For example:

  • Musical Quiz – Name the Singer? (eg. Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Bobby Darin), Name that Tune?, Name the Instrument? (eg. violin, harp, trumpet, bagpipes, steel drums), Name the Band? (eg. Glen Miller etc) and many more………
  • We also organise for entertainers to perform, such as pianists, harp players, singers of all genres – Elvis, Country and Western, Opera and others.
Jeannette one of our Activity Coordinator’s has recently formed a group within the home known as ‘Swarthmore Singers’. This will enable us to give something back to the staff and our community contacts. St Mary’s School girls often come to visit our residents on special occasions such as Easter. The girls usually perform a song and dance to our residents, so we thought it would be a lovely idea to sing to them next time. We have chosen a selection of songs so we can begin our practice. They will include:

  • Country Roads
  • Tie a Yellow Ribbon
  • Let it Be
  • Quando Quando and many more …….. 
Quote:-     One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain!” - Bob Marley

Watch one of our practice sessions:

During the month of June, we have had regular visits from our pianist ‘Andrew’ and one of our entertainers ‘Emily’ returned to sing some classic songs to our residents – all socially distanced. Emily sang songs from musicals and other well-known artists. We will upload a couple of videos on our YouTube channel soon. We have also had musicians perform to the residents in our visitor pod during these difficult times.

Music is processed in every part of the brain, so its influence is not limited to a specific section. However, the first impact of those melodious notes is on the auditory cortex that is linked to the brains limbic system.

Think of this as the emotional and cognitive centre of the brain. The stimulation of this system helps older adults to learn new skills and relearn skills that may have been forgotten. It also helps to create bridges between knowledge instilled in the past with newly acquired information. We are talking about an improvement in both long term and short term memory.

It is a well-known fact that music stimulates minds encouraging engagement of singing, clapping, moving of feet and dancing when possible.

Music is one of the world’s most interactive areas within the arts. It has been proven to be more beneficial for older people whether its listening to the soft tones of jazz or winding down to classical. Music can improve the quality of life in numerous ways. It can help us overcome symptoms of depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Music often brings back memories which is obviously very helpful to anyone with any form of cognitive impairment. Listening to and playing music is an activity that enriches us throughout our lives, from birth to death. It is a medium that has been proven time and time again to promote happiness in our lives and in the those around you. It is intrinsic to all cultures and playing music is one of the few activities that involves using the whole brain. All the above gives reason to ensure music plays an active part in everyone’s life, even if it might appear that there is no benefit.

The Benefits of Music for Seniors:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  •  Decreases heart rate
  •  Reduces stress
  •  Lessens anxiety and depressio
  •  Enhances immunological response, which enables us to fight viruses
  •  Use of musical instruments for senior are designed to encourage people of all ages to participate in making music and to enjoy the health benefit
  • Use of musical instruments doubles up as physiotherapy. This means that when seniors have the use of an instrument, they are not only working to maintain their coordination and balance, but improving their mobility and posture, increasing their energy levels, developing the use of their fine and gross motor skills, and perhaps even more importantly, they are having fun and living the moment.
The fact that music enhances mood and increases our feelings suggests we should be spending as much time as possible listening to music, even if this means it’s in the background at least.

Research from Stanford found that 30 depressed people over the age of 80 years who participated in a weekly music therapy group were less anxious, less distressed, and had higher self-esteem than those who did not.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia

According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there are currently over 5.5 million Americans living with dementia and more than 520,000 in the UK.

The result of a recent study shows that music engages areas of the brain which are involved with paying attention, making predictions, and updating events in our memory. Listening to and playing music is particularly beneficial for people with alzheimer’s or dementia because music targets the areas of the brain that are most affected by the disease.

One study into brain plasticity concluded that seniors over the age of 75 who frequently played a musical instrument were less likely to have developed dementia when compared to those who rarely played a musical instrument. It should be no surprise then that research has also shown that playing instruments also benefits those who are living with dementia, regardless of whether they have previously played an instrument. One of the reasons why music therapy in general and playing musical instruments is so good at helping people living with dementia is because individuals in the later stages of the disease are often non-verbal and can become agitated and frustrated by sensory overload.  Engaging people living with dementia in singing, rhythm playing, dancing, physical exercise, and other structured musical activities can alleviate this behaviour and offer a powerful distraction from the agitation and frustration that the individual usually feels.

The increase of these feel good chemicals in the brain can result in the following after engaging with music:

  • Mood is boosted
  • Stress and Agitation is reduced
  • Co-ordination is improved and cognition is improved
  • Music is hard wired in our brains and bodies which immediately triggers our memory 
  • Music is seen as a therapy for the mind and body
The British Association for Music Therapy says: “Music is something that we can all relate to regardless of age, and is often central to a person’s sense of identity. It provides us with ways to connect and share feeling, memories and moments with others, and offers stimulation and encourages expression. Music therapy can also enhance exploratory and creative abilities, as well as foster self-esteem and the sense of feeling valued and heard.

'Music therapy is like food for the soul'. It can bring joy to the heart and fresh air to the lungs'. Singing songs and letting rhythm move both body and mind to better health and happiness is a therapy that is free!

Benefits of Music for the body
  • Combining the positive effects of exercise through dancing as well as the psychological enhancements by listening to music you have a combination more powerful than any other therapy.  Adults who have reduced mobility can still enjoy the fun and enjoyment by simply tapping away to the tune
  • Music changes the individual’s mood for the better. Dancing to music is a wonderful way of exercise. Being swept into the rhythm of music can also lower blood pressure and stimulate organs in the body 
  • Singing along to a fast-paced song can help to raise the heart rate encouraging faster breathing which stimulates the brain
  • Music has the capacity to capture attention, lift spirits, generate emotion, change, or regulate mood, evoke memories, increase work output, reduce inhibitions and encourage rhythmic movement, all of which have potential applications in sport and exercise
  • Listening to and playing music is an activity that enriches us throughout our lives, from birth to death and it is a medium that has been proven time and time again to promote happiness, in your life and in the lives of those around you.
In 2015 statistics showed that there was a 70% increase in new dancers over the age of 50 and older. This was down to inspiration from ‘Strictly comes Dancing and the promotion of fitness as we age.

Music is not just for the purposes of art, entertainment, and pleasure but is also medicine for the body and soul. It is intrinsic to all cultures and playing music is one of the few activities that involve using the whole brain. Playing music has surprising benefits not only for learning language, improving memory, and focusing attention but also for physical coordination and development. For these reasons’ music should play an active part in everyone’s life.

A few interesting facts how music affects seniors:

  • Cognitive and neural benefits of musical experience continue throughout the lifespan, and counteract some of the negative effects of aging, such as memory and hearing difficulties in older adult
  • Research shows that music activities (both music listening and music making) can influence older adults’ perceptions about the quality of their lives
  • Music keeps your ears young. Older musicians don’t experience typical aging in the part of the brain (the auditory cortex) that often leads to hearing troubles. It’s never too late to start taking piano lessons and prevent these age-related changes!
  •  Playing music reduces stress and has been shown to reverse the body's response to stress
  • Playing music significantly lowered the heart rate, calmed and regulated blood pressure and respiration rates of patients who had undergone blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal of the hormonal stress response
  • Adults between the age of 60-85 without previous musical experience show improved processing speed and memory after 3 months of weekly 30 minute piano lessons or 3 hours a week of practice
  • Playing an instrument as a child leads to a sharper mind in old age

So, how do we end on that note! Play lots of music, take on a new hobby and learn the piano or learn how to play the drums. Its healthy, our mind will keep ticking whilst we are listening to music.

Swarthmore is a wonderful family orientated residential home with lots of music and other activities to keep your mind stimulated. Swarthmore has a piano so you will be able to play if you are experienced or maybe you can arrange a lesson or two! We look forward to welcoming you to our home. Please give us a call if you are looking in to care for a family member, friend or perhaps yourself.

Afternoon singalong with Emily

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