Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Importance of Music to Seniors

Academic journal article Psychomusicology

The Importance of Music to Seniors

Article excerpt

To determine the significance of music in the lives of senior individuals, a short questionnaire was added to the protocol of the 2nd phase of the Canadian Study of Health and Aging (CSHA2). Over 300 participants (mean age 78.3 years) from Prince Edward Island (N = 211 ) and Nova Scotia (N = 109) completed the questionnaire. Theirratings of the importance of music produced a modal response of the highest rating category. This judged level of importance of music was independent of age and mental status, as measured by the Modified Mini-Mental State Exam (3MS), but correlated with past and current involvement in music. Favorite music covered a broad range of styles, with period of popularity of the music weighted toward earlier rather than later decades of life. The same questionnaire was administered 2.5 years later to 93 CSHA2 seniors, including 78 individuals from the original sample. These results confirmed the previous observations. The importance of music to seniors, as shown here, raises questions about the optimum level of access to music by seniors. Increasing access to relevant music experiences, for example, through public broadcasting, or accessibility to choirs, instruments, training, and music therapists, may help maintain and augment quality of life in later years.

The presentpaper draws attention to the importance of music in the lives of elderly listeners. The listening habits and consumer choices of adolescents and young adults indicate that music is important in the lives of young people. The significance of music to older adults, however, is less clear. Cross (1998) has suggested that music is one of the most biologically significant activities in human life. The role of music in the lives of young people supports this view. We ask here whether the significance of music declines in senior years or whether it remains stable.

Arguments can be raised both for and against the notion that the importance of music continues into and throughout senior years. On the one hand, from the cognitive psychology literature, the basic sensitivity to musical variables remains intact. Older listeners retain the ability to identify transposed melodic sequences (Cohen & Trehub, 1988; Halpern, Bartlett, & Dowling, 1995) and to recognize melodies that are speeded or slowed (Andrews, Dowling, Bartlett & Halpern, 1998). Older listeners are also susceptible to mood induction by music (Fox, Knight, & Zelinski, 1998).

On the other hand, in spite of the evidence of the general ability to respond to music in a manner that is comparable to that of younger adults, test performance in experiments with elderly people often shows decline especially when memory is involved and the musical patterns in question are unfamiliar(e.g., Bartlett, Halpern, & Dowling, 1995; Clyburn & Cohen, 1996; Cohen & Trehub, 1988; Halpern, et al,, 1995). Moreover, reduced sensitivity to hearing high frequencies typically accompanies aging. Although the transmission of musical structure does not rely on high frequency, some of the subtler aspects of music such as instrument tone quality are affected. Such deficits might impede the enjoyment of music in senioryears.

A continuity theory of aging suggests that successful aging entails the continuation of activities of early life. Atchley ( 1989,1993) argues that older adults make deliberate choices to retain their past. Wise, Hartmann, and Fisher ( 1992) noted that in a retirement community, those who had engaged in choral singing made up the majority of current participants in a choir. This continuation of an activity on the part of those who had belonged to choirs in the past supported the notion that elderly persons tend to maintain consistency in their activities. Listening to or playing music may place fewer demands on an aging body than the demands of other past enjoyable activities of one's youth, such as sports, camping, even dining out on spicy food. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.