Jun 30, 2020
New AARP Report Shows Evidence that Music Can Improve Brain Health and Wellbeing
Experts recommend individuals consider listening to or playing music to help stimulate brain activity, improve mood, and help manage health conditions affecting older adults

WASHINGTON—A new report from the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) 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 people of all ages consider incorporating music in their lives to help improve quality of life and wellbeing.

According to the report, music can enhance mood and social connectedness, can reduce anxiety and depression, and may 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, and help them engage in positive experiences with their loved ones. There is also strong evidence that specialized music-based treatment may improve movement and recovery in patients with Parkinson’s disease and stroke, including in walking and talking. Singing may 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 Vice President 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 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 the 50+, AARP is offering ways for older adults to engage with music, including the re-launch of its popular singing competition, AARP Superstar 2020. In addition, AARP is teaming up with Daybreaker to host a virtual Dancing Through the Decades, a 2-hour livestream dance adventure through the 60s, 70s, and 80s, on July 18th.

To read the full report, “Music on Our Minds: The Rich Potential of Music to Promote Brain Health and Mental Wellbeing,” click here. Previous reports from the GCBH on exercise, nutrition, sleep and other modifiable lifestyle factors that can help your brain and your heart at any age are available here.

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About AARP
AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. With a nationwide presence and nearly 38 million members, AARP strengthens communities and advocates for what matters most to families: health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment. AARP also produces the nation's largest circulation publications: AARP The Magazine and AARP Bulletin. To learn more, visit www.aarp.org or follow @AARP and @AARPadvocates on social media.

Media ContactAmanda Davis, adavis@aarp.org, 202-434-2560, @AARPMedia