Good for the Mind, Body, and Soul
While people of all ages may enjoy a symphony performance, senior citizens have proven to be a critical audience for symphonic music. Listening to music and attending concerts provides significant benefits as well as entertainment for older adults. Recent studies and discussions with two members of Indy’s senior community have revealed that music has the capacity to alleviate stress, evoke powerful memories, instill a sense of vitality, and afford socialization opportunities for senior citizens.\Symphonic music has been shown to induce relaxation in older adults. A recent study by the Journal of Advanced Nursing showed that listening to music releases endorphins, which alleviate stress, anxiety, and pain. \“Classical music is soothing for older adults,” said Peggy Jones, 71, longtime music lover and Head Usher for the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra (ISO). “What a joy when you can come to the symphony, listen to music, and relax.”
Similarly, Indy native Francis Heavrin, 76, said, “The sound and the tranquility and the peace that you have when you’re exposed to a symphony orchestra just enriches my life immeasurably.” Heavrin, who has worked at the ISO for 25 years, first as an usher and then as Event Supervisor, continued, “I think that’s why we rock little babies to music. If music soothes little babies, why wouldn’t it have the same effect as you age as when you started the aging process?”
Jones also highlighted the capacity of music to soothe older adults by evoking strong memories. “Classical music brings back memories for older adults,” she said. “We grew up listening to classical music.”
While many pieces are soothing, other pieces energize older adults, allowing them to experience a strong sense of vitality.
“Certain pieces energize you, other pieces relax you,” said Jones. “Lots of pieces really lift you up. [Maurice Ravel’s] ‘Bolero’ really sends me to the moon.”
Jones also believes music has brain-boosting benefits. She emphasized how music aided her husband, a stroke victim, in his recovery.
“I know it’s a fact that music has brain benefits,” said Jones, whose husband worked to sing songs from his childhood as part of his treatment. “When you hear music, it brings back memories,” she said. “The rhythm and the beat of the music bring back memories. There are no words to remember, but you can concentrate on the melody.”
Heavrin agreed. “Music has a healing process to it because there’s such a peaceful calmness about it,” she said. “I could probably listen to ‘Clare de Lune’ until the day I die. If you could not speak or something, you would probably recognize that tune and maybe it would awaken your brain just a little bit.”
Recent neurological research has substantiated the belief in the benefits of music for the mind and body. According to an April 2011 article in the “International Business Times,” recent studies have revealed that listening to music stimulates brain cells and enhances focus, creativity, and concentration.
Perhaps most importantly, classical music concerts often serve as social occasions for senior citizens. “They get to hear the music, they get to see their friends, and they get to away and relax,” Heavrin said. When asked why she became an usher, Jones underlined the way in which concerts foster a sense of community for older adults.
“My husband and I have been coming to the ISO for many years,” said Jones. “When I found out about the usher position, I said to him, ‘Oh honey, let’s do this.’ I love people.” Jones has served as an usher for almost 20 years. “I get to hear the music and meet a lot of people,” she said. She continued, “I become part of the orchestra by being an usher and part of the audience.”