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Reimagine Everything: New AARP Report Shows Evidence That Music Can Improve Brain Health and Well-Being

By July 17, 2020 July 23rd, 2020 No Comments

Ron Mori

Music can move the soul, and I can remember certain songs in association with a special event or memory.

My favorite songs always put me in a happy place or at least take me to a more relaxed state.

A new report from the Global Council on Brain Health concludes that music can potentially stimulate brain health, manage stress and help treat brain health conditions as varied as dementia, stroke and Parkinson’s disease. Brain health experts convened by the GCBH recommend that people of all ages consider incorporating music in their lives to help improve their quality of life and well-being.

According to the report, music can enhance mood and social connectedness, reduce anxiety and depression and might potentially reduce agitation for people living with dementia. Music can also be a tool for caregivers by helping ease the stress and burdens associated with caregiving, as well as help them engage in positive experiences with their loved ones.

There is also strong evidence that specialized music-based treatment might improve movement and recovery in patients with Parkinson’s disease and stroke, including walking and talking. Singing might also help people recover the loss of language functions after a stroke.

“Music is a universal language that everyone can enjoy with remarkable benefits,” said Sarah Lenz Lock, AARP senior VP for policy and executive director of the GCBH. “This report suggests music can have a powerful role to play in healthy aging by enriching our brains’ activity, improving our moods and fostering social connections. Over the next several months, AARP will celebrate those enhancing their brain health through melody, while providing fun and unique virtual opportunities to engage with music and help make life better for older adults.”

The GCBH report recommends ways people can engage with music, including:

Listen to both familiar and new music. Evidence suggests music you know and like causes the strongest brain response and dopamine release, while new music can stimulate the brain and provide a new source of pleasure.

Dance, sing or move to music to not only provide physical exercise but also potentially help relieve stress, build social connections and stimulate your brain.

Make music yourself by singing or playing an instrument. Learning to play a musical instrument can offer a sense of mastery and self-esteem while stimulating thinking skills.

A recent AARP survey found that adults who engage in music are more likely to rate their brain health and cognitive function as excellent or very good. To celebrate the power of music and help strengthen the minds of those 50-plus, AARP is offering ways for older adults to engage with music, including the relaunch of its popular singing competition “AARP Superstar 2020.”

In addition, AARP is teaming up with Daybreaker (https://www.daybreaker.com) to host a virtual “Dancing Through the Decades,” a two-hour livestream dance adventure through the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s on July 18.  Crank up the music and enjoy the summer.

To read the full report, “Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Wellbeing,” visit aarp.org/brainhealth.

Ron Mori is a member of the Washington, D.C., JACL chapter and manager of community, states and national affairs — multicultural leadership for AARP.