Issues of self-awareness and communication become increasingly important to the elderly, whose skills are declining and for whom isolation is increasing. Loss, illness, depression, and the need to restore faith and hope are readily addressed through therapy in music and art.
When provided by a trained music therapist, music has been proven effective in stimulating memory recall which contributes to reminiscence and satisfaction with life, positive changes in mood and emotional states, a sense of control over life through successful experiences, anxiety and stress reduction, and pain and discomfort management. It promotes rhythmic and continuous physical movement and vocal fluency as an adjunct to physical rehabilitation and offers opportunities to interact socially with others. Music can reach even those seniors resistant to other treatment approaches due to the familiarity, predictability and feelings of security associated with being in music.
Joseph Aresso, Ph.D., Vice Chairman, Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York, says, "the degree to which function can be recovered is phenomenal and we are just tapping in to the extent that we can get recovery following stroke or injury or disease. We hope that music might play a particularly important role in helping the regeneration of those cells, in helping the individual learn to interpret the pattern and essentially to help that person learn again".
In the case of individuals afflicted with Parkinson's disease, the White House Mini-Conference on Aging and Music Therapy, 1994, found that "particular elements of music have a specific effect on motor systems." It validated the effectiveness of music to improve the gait (by an average of 25% in a three week period) of individuals afflicted with Parkinson's disease through the rhythmic coupling of auditory and motor systems.