If you’re hitting your golden years, you may be on the lookout for hobbies or ways to keep busy now that you’re done slaving away in the office and the kids are all grown-up. Of course, it’s nice to have some free time to finally kick back and relax but it won’t be long before you start itching for something to do. Why not learn the piano?
Not only is the piano the easiest instrument to pick up, it’s also a lovely skill with which to impress and entertain family and friends. Importantly, it has also been shown to have real and significant benefits for ageing brains.
It might seem easy to think that it’s too late and that you’re too old to learn the piano. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Numerous scientific studies have been done in recent years that point to the many tangible benefits that people in their golden years can expect to experience if they decide to take up the piano post-retirement.
Can Learning The Piano Really Help Me?
One of the aforementioned studies was done by Northwestern University. Based on the study, they learned that seniors learning to play the piano had better neural connections, stronger memory and more clarity. Playing an instrument is a great way to keep your brain working and remaining mentally fit.
Another study was conducted by Dr. Jennifer MacRitchie, where she placed seniors on a six-week music course to ascertain how the lessons impacted their lives. What she found was that the instrument usage resulted in a significant increase in the connections between their brain and hand muscles. Don’t let your hands go stiff. Keep them nimble with some regular piano playing!
Music has also long been employed by nursing homes everywhere as a way to keep their residents relaxed and soothed. Patients with dementia who can’t remember much from their past have been known to sing along with all of the lyrics when certain songs are played. Music has a way of staying with us, it seems.
Jennifer Burgos has also studied the impact of piano lessons on adults above the age of 60. An Assistant Professor of music education at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Burgos found that after six months, the seniors who had taken piano lessons had a notable level of superiority in their capacity for memory and their verbal fluency when compared to those who did not take the lessons. The senior musicians were also shown to be able to process information more quickly on top of an increased planning ability.
Burgos isn’t the only one studying the effects of music on the ageing brain though. In what is an increasingly burgeoning field, there are more and more contemporaries popping up every year to supplement and add to the small amount of work that has already been done on the subject.
One example of a newcomer to the field is Hervé Platel, a professor of Neuropsychology at the Université de Caen Basse-Normandie, France. He is in the process of conducting a neuroimaging study of healthy, ageing non-musicians who are just starting to pick up the piano.
Another is neuroscientist Julene Johnson who spends her days working as a professor at the Institute for Health and Ageing at the University of California in San Francisco. She is investigating what kind of links she can find between seniors who join a choir after the age of 60 and any possible cognitive, motor or physical benefits that this activity can bring about. Not to be outdone, she’ll ensure that her study is wide in scope with a look at the psychosocial and quality-of-life aspects of the study as well.
There have been a lot of encouraging breakthroughs in this field that have only just begun to open up our eyes to all of the possible benefits that taking up the piano at a more advanced age can bring. These include, but are not limited to, increased memory recognition, improved motor skills, and an ability to process information more rapidly.
Although it may feel awkward at first, learning how to play the piano will not only allow you to serenade whomever you please with your lovely piano tunes but it will also give your brain the workout it deserves (and probably needs). This is while also maintaining that nimble dexterity in your hands and fingers that you don’t want to lose.
Many people on the back nine of their lives feel that learning an instrument is not realistic at their age because they didn’t practice when they were young. They don’t think that they can learn or they think that they would look silly or vulnerable while learning. New studies such as those done by Northwestern, Johnson, Bugos, and Platel have proven that this line of thinking is wrong. We can all learn new skills no matter how many birthdays we’ve celebrated.
We should regardless because these skills not only entertain us and open up our minds to more knowledge, but they can also help us to live longer, healthier, and fuller lives with the ones that we love.