Music can transform. It can calm, distract, trigger memories, improve moods, and provide an emotional release for anyone young and old. And in seniors, particularly those in cognitive decline, music can be a lifeline to the soothing feelings of familiarity that are so necessary for their physical and emotional well-being.

Here are some of the ways that music can benefit us as we age.

Music improves cognition and speech

Studies have shown that stroke victims regain their verbal skills much faster after listening to a few hours of music each day. Music can also be a great topic of conversation to enjoy with family, friends and caregivers, which helps older adults practice and improve their communication skills.

Music encourages self-expression

We all have a type of music or a particular artist that speaks to us on a personal level. When seniors are exposed to their favorite music, clapping, dancing, foot tapping and singing along gives listeners a sense of individuality and lets their unique personalities shine through.

Music increases self-esteem

The familiarity of music is a powerful source of positive energy to dispel negative feelings such as anxiety, tension and fear. Sharing music and the memories it triggers can also improve social interactions in seniors which, in turn, can boost feelings of self-worth and confidence.

Music enhances mood

Listening to soothing music helps seniors enter a more relaxed state of physical and mental well-being in a way that few activities can. Music can even reduce heart rates, lower the body’s levels of cortisol, a hormone that contributes to feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve sleep quality.

Music improves memory

Memory is directly linked to sensory input. Similar to the connection between smell and memory, music taps into the deep recesses of the brain to awaken memories, improve processing, and assist in overall recall even in seniors who struggle with memory loss.

Exposing seniors to music through personalized playlists of favorites songs, live and recorded concerts and musicals, and familiar and new instruments are powerful ways to keep the brain active and engaged and give older adults a sense of independence, empowerment and purpose as they navigate their senior years.