Learning Instruments Later in Life: An Old Dog CAN Learn Some New Tricks!


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It’s easy to think that your window to pick up certain skills or hobbies is small and limited. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” as that saying goes. It can actually be extremely beneficial, however, to learn new things later in life. Namely, musical instruments. Music itself is therapeutic and learning to play it comes with many benefits that can keep you at the top of your game later in life.

Health Benefits of Playing a Musical Instrument

Have you ever dreamed of learning to play a musical instrument and discarded the thought simply because you figured learning was only for children? Do you want to take up a new hobby that could benefit your health in the long term? Are you curious about developing new habits which could stave off neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease?

There are many health benefits associated with playing an instrument, and you’ll be glad to find out they’re not just for children or teenagers: scientific research has shown that learning how to play a musical instrument is an amazing way to keep your brain in great shape in old age, too.

Very few activities can activate so many parts of the human brain the way music does! So don’t be afraid to try something new and read on to discover the health benefits of playing an instrument.

It stimulates your brain.

Research has shown that playing an instrument fires up almost every area in your brain, filling your brain cortex with activity and sending signals through your neurons. Studies have shown that playing music improves memory in patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Even in severe cases of these illnesses, patients can benefit from music therapy and listening to songs can make them remember the lyrics.

Healthy seniors can also benefit from playing an instrument, since it can increase thought processing speed, verbal fluency, memory, comprehension, math skills, coordination, and even lessen the risk of developing hearing impairments. These improvements can be seen after only a few weeks of playing a new instrument, regardless of your skill level. Slow, repetitive melodies can even help patients with Parkinson’s disease move more steadily.

Your newly acquired musical skills will make it much easier for you to perform daily tasks, or to go on and learn new things and hobbies. Even listening to music has beneficial effects, but nothing compares to the wonders of playing an instrument!

Check out this video to learn more about this important benefit.

Your social life and self-esteem will improve.

If you take music lessons to learn how to play an instrument, you will probably end up meeting lots of new interesting people from all walks of life. Moreover, the fact that you are meeting these people in an environment which promotes learning, creativity, and self-expression will make it easier for you to overcome any social anxiety and inhibiting barriers so that you can make new friends in a pinch. Keeping an active social life is incredibly beneficial for seniors, since it improves self-esteem and communication.

Music also develops cooperation, time management, organization, and listening skills; all of these skills are fundamental and hugely advantageous when it comes to maintaining your relationships and creating new ones. Your self-esteem will also get a boost from knowing you are learning a new skill, and every new chord will encourage you to keep going. You will also have a new conversation topic to discuss with your family and friends, and an accomplishment to show!

Playing an instrument strengthens your fine motor skills.

Playing an instrument requires coordination and precision in order to hit the right notes. Your brain isn’t the only one benefitting from this activity; your hands and fingers are getting a workout, too!

Research has shown that after learning how to play an instrument, seniors have better eye-hand coordination and motor control without having to perform tedious and repetitive exercises to improve these skills. You will simply improve your fine motor skills while performing an enjoyable hobby.

Your overall mood will improve.

a wooden guitar laying in a field of high grassMusic has long been known to be a great mood enhancer. Participating in artistic activities has been shown to have a positive impact on mental health, quality of life, well-being, and stress levels. Studies have even shown that playing a musical instrument can lower blood pressure and heart rate in patients who have recently undergone surgery!

Playing an instrument can also constitute a healthy way to vent anger and frustration, and it can lower the levels of stress hormones in our bodies. This, combined with the beneficial effects playing an instrument can have on your self-esteem and social life, can boost your overall satisfaction and happiness.

Choosing Your Instrument

Maybe you’ve always had a musical interest or maybe you just recently decided you needed a hobby, but music is a great place to start.

There are so many different instruments to choose from, it can seem overwhelming at first. You might feel inclined to just choose what seems easiest and go from there, but what’s important is that you choose one that interests and excites you so you stay engaged and motivated.

Piano and Guitar are both good places to start, because they both give you good musical foundations that can help you if you decide to take up another instrument in the future.

Keep Your Mind Sharp

Learning an instrument requires a lot of practice. It’s important to keep this in mind when taking up an instrument, and it may help even further to set aside a scheduled time in your day to practice. It may seem bothersome at first, but the discipline that this builds can be very beneficial to your health.

Whether it’s an hour, two, or even just 15 minutes a day, taking time to practice and think through music pieces and exercises keeps your brain running and can even improve your cognitive and memory skills.

Calming Properties

close up of the head of a guitar with sheet music in the backgroundIn addition to better cognitive performance, music can be a great way to de-stress and relieve anxiety. It has been proven to lower blood pressure, which helps prevent many vascular problems like heart disease, as well as significantly decreasing levels of anxiety and depression.

As you get older, and especially once you retire, it’s important to develop a hobby that keeps you happy and healthy, and music is a perfect way to do that.

It’s Never Too Late

So, if you have ever wanted to pick up a guitar, violin, or learn how to play the piano, now you know the health benefits of playing an instrument. And despite what many people think, be confident and know that learning isn’t just for little kids: you can learn new skills at any point in your life if you set your mind on it. All it takes is determination and a little practice.

Learning a musical instrument doesn’t have to be something you can only do in your early formative years.

Music is an incredible outlet that allows you to express yourself, and learning to play it at any point in your life can be beneficial not only to your health, but to your happiness and identity as well.

It might take a little bit more work and determination, but the outcome, and being able to express yourself through something you love, makes it all well worth it.

Learning at Home

Depending on the instrument of your choice, you might prefer to start learning from home or join music classes. Your skill level at the beginning of your lessons doesn’t matter. Over the course of the learning process, some people might master the instrument, while others will learn enough to play a few songs; what truly matters is enjoying you new hobby and being passionate about learning.

If you’d like to explore learning an instrument at home, I recommend Legacy Learning Systems. They have some really good programs for learning guitar and piano (and other hobbies too like photography and painting) via DVD videos and instructional books. There is also a forum where you can communicate with other students and the course instructor for encouragement, support and help.

Take advantage of all the benefits playing an instrument has on seniors, and enjoy a new hobby which won’t just be a great way to pass time, but will also make you a healthier, happier person. You’ll also meet new people and make new friends through your mutual passion for music.

Have you picked up playing an instrument in your later years? Tell me in the comments below what instrument you chose and how it went. Thanks for sharing!

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