The Miracle of Music
Music has long been a huge part of my life. My mother likes to tell the story about my 3 year old self who was very quiet and spent most of my time watching my four sisters. One day, my mother was watching through the kitchen window as my older sisters and I played in the backyard. The music came onÉ Up I jumped and started to dance with sheer abandon. Who knows what went on inside my three-year-old mind but I was changed. Mom loved to share that story about me. She said, that from then on, my personality was much more outgoing. She felt that the music helped carry me there.
Many years have gone by and now instead of my mother watching us girls out the kitchen window, we are watching her face the hardest challenge of her life – Alzheimers. We are feeling so helpless as we have watched her decline for the past 8 years. My friend Judy, who created a music program called ElderTurtle, and I were talking and she thought maybe her music program could help my mother. We designed a 4-hour custom play list for my mom with much of her music from her past. When we put the headphones on my mom, and her favorite Elvis tunes started to play, the huge smile that spread over her face and her immediate dancing and singing were priceless. I felt such a sense of satisfaction because not there was not much we five daughters could do to give her this much happiness. We had felt so helpless and discouraged. I am smiling even now thinking of that special day.
I now work for ElderTurtle. We provide custom playlists for seniors of all cognitive abilities and challenges from dementia and Alzheimer’s to a loss of a loved one or a simple move of their home. The daily use of this mp3 device and headphones has brought many benefits to seniors: less anxiety and depression, reduced sundowner’s syndrome in the afternoon, increased joy and happiness, reduced chronic pain and better sleeping patterns- to name just a few.
Oliver Sachs, who was a prominent neurologist, author, and worked with the aging population, describes music as having the ability to give one back one’s autobiography. Listening to music stimulates the part of the brain, the hippocampus, which engages the long term memory. He says songs from one’s past will bring back the long term memory that is associated with the song like the time the family spent the day at Coney Island and ate hot dogs. He says these memories are buried, such as a fossil in amber, and the music will bring them to the forefront of the brain.
New research is confirming and expanding an idea long held by those who work with dementia: Music can not only improve the mood of people with neurological diseases, it can boost cognitive skills and reduce the need for drugs.
More research has also found that brainwaves will resonate with the beat of the music- our heartbeat and our brainwaves will match the beat of the song. Songbirds and humans are the only animals on the planet that share this ability. Music increases our serotonin, the brain chemical that increases good feelings.
To underestimate the power of music from the beginning of our lives to the end is to short change one of the greatest gifts we humans have. Now when you need some nourishment, you have some scientific facts to bolster your resolve to take care of yourself by taking a break and putting your favorite music on. And your smile that will begin to grow (and you might even move that body of yours a little) is a perfect way to give yourself, to rejuvenate and to experience joy!
Executive Vice President of Sales