Contributions of Music to Aging Adults' Quality of Life

By Solé, Carme; Mercadal-Brotons, Melissa et al. | Journal of Music Therapy, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Contributions of Music to Aging Adults' Quality of Life


Solé, Carme, Mercadal-Brotons, Melissa, Gallego, Sofia, Riera, Mariangels, Journal of Music Therapy


The purpose of this study was: (a) To evaluate and to compare the impact of three music programs (choir, music appreciation and preventive music therapy sessions) on the quality of life of healthy older adults, and (b) to identify the motivations and the difficulties that seniors encounter when participating in activities of this type, in order to come up with recommendations and strategies for the design of appropriate programs for older adults. A pre-posttest quasi-experimental design without equivalent control group was used in this project. The sample included 83 persons over 65 years of age. The data collection was carried out through an ad hoc questionnaire that included the four aspects of the construct of quality of life (physical health, subjective health, psychological well-being and interpersonal relations), a questionnaire on motivation and another on satisfaction about the program. This questionnaire on quality of life was administered twice: at the beginning of the programs (pretest) and at the end (posttest). The results of this study indicate that the participants perceived improvements in some aspects of their quality of life. In addition, the main reasons which motivate participation in these musical activities are to broaden the social network and to acquire new knowledge. The results are discussed in the light of the challenges of active and satisfactory aging.

The presence of older people in the developed world, and in many developing countries, is increasing rapidly (United Nations, 2007). The United Nations projects that by 2050, 79% of the population aged 60 years or over, amounting to nearly 1.6 billion will reside in those countries. However, the size of the elderly population and the speed of population aging vary across regions. Europe has the highest proportion of people aged 65 and older (16%), but the older population is growing fastest in several countries in East and Southeast Asia (The National Institute on Aging, 2007).

Today, in Spain the number of people older than 65 represents 16,6% of the population, and the population projections of the United Nations for the year 2050 indicate that this country will be third in the world with older people reaching 34,1% of the population, after Japan (35.9%) and Italy (35.5%) (Informe Personas Mayores Imserso, 2004) . This noticeable increase in people older than 65 accentuates the need to establish actions and programs to contribute to their quality of life. In this sense, many countries, including Spain, are working towards promoting an active and satisfactory aging process.

Active aging is defined as "the process of optimizing the opportunities for physical, cognitive, and social wellbeing throughout life with the objective of increasing a healthy life expectancy, productivity and quality of life in older age" (OMS, 2002, p. 12). It is important to offer this population not only the possibility to remain physically active, but also the opportunity to participate in social, economic, cultural, spiritual, and civic activities throughout later life.

Another important concept is that of satisfactory or successful aging. Rowe and Kahn (1997) indicate that although there is no fixed pattern of successful aging, the following characteristics tend to be involved:

1. A low probability of suffering diseases and disabilities associated with aging (health and ability) .

2. A high level of physical and cognitive functioning. An active implication and commitment towards life. The development of a specific set of activities.

Successful aging, as Rowe and Kahn (1997) explain, can be related to two types of basic activities:

1. Social activities, which are those activities that are able to maintain pleasant interpersonal relations, and therefore, facilitate a socially healthy and independent life style.

2. Productive activities, which are those that are similarly capable of contributing to the maintenance of social life or personal growth. …

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