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Improved Health With ‘Sound’ Use of Music.

Article by Tony Ockendon

Today, many residents of residential, care and nursing homes are benefitting from the efforts of a former professional pianist who saw the potential of Music as a means of Lifting the Spirit and hence the health and well being of the elderly.

From the well documented use of Military Music to inspire or create fear in major battles and skirmishes throughout our troubled past, to the much more pleasing accounts of Greek physicians arranging to take their patients out of Hospital to attend musical concerts in the local amphitheatre in the knowledge that music would aid recovery.

Centuries before that we have the Biblical reference to David (later to be King David) attempting, (in this instance, unsuccessfully!) to soothe the then King Saul with his Harp playing. Music has of course been used through history as a part of worship as well as a military weapon, apart from purely a form of entertainment.

In comparatively recent times there is a growing field of study into just what effects music has on the physical, mental and spiritual aspects of the human race. Some of this is driven by the fact that Music in all its forms is available by some means or other to a great percentage of the population continuously, indoors or out, whether static or on the move. We have progressed (?) through the “piano in the Parlour” to the early crystal radios, to the imposing Radiogram (“now even with two speakers, giving the ‘new’ Stereo effect”!). Surround or Theatre Sound, Portable Radios, Cassette Players, C D’s, Walkman Personal Players, Mini Discs, MP3, iPod, Mobile phones with integrated players – in fact progress is so fast in this field that it is hard to keep abreast of the improvements and minituarising of the systems available. But the question remains, just what impact does this continual bombardment of ‘noise’ have on us?

Apart from the ways music has been used in the past, today we see a trend towards recognition of the benefits that sypathetic use of music has in a therapeutic way. Allow me to illustrate in one particular area, i.e. the elderly and those affected by forms of ageing or dementia.

Some fifteen years ago a well respected musical arranger and professional pianist almost unwittingly embarked on a mission to apply his talents and musical knowledge to brightening the life of a very poorly relative who found it difficult to respond to the usual sympathetic visits. No matter how cheerful the visitor, or encouraging the conversation, the only times that a marked improvement was seen in the ‘patient’s well being or attitude was when music was introduced to the visits.

Recognising even back then the potential of using music specifically as a tool (or more appropriately, if you’ll pardon the pun, an instrument) to improve the spirit of a person, the intrepid musician started to investigate the concept in two ways. One, to discover for himself if there were elements of music which literally had an effect on the mind, brain or senses and could be utilised to bring health benefits to people, particularly those with problems associated with stages of dementia, learning difficulties and other conditions which obstructed efforts to raise their spirits. Secondly, if that theory were correct, whether it could be developed to the extent that ordinary people without profound musical or medical knowledge could act as ‘therapists’ in the broad sense and bring some brightness into the lives of those affected.

Accepting that although he was well qualified as a musician, he did not aspire to any great Medical, or Psychological letters after his name, he pursued a more practical approach by exploring how popular and readily obtainable music might be harnessed to help those same people.

He also pursued studying the results of the academic research into the Brain Wave ranges and their effects on the individual. The music he utilised was carefully chosen, re-recorded and balanced to provide the ultimate benefit from relatively short, attention holding pieces, assembled into hour long sessions. This was found, when linked to simple rhythmic movements to act as both a mental and physical stimulus.

Utilising a group of willing (and grateful) local Care Homes, contemporary music styles were introduced by the researcher and his wife, who added her knowledge of movement and choreography to encourage clients as a group to exercise, vocalise, reminisce, and relax in turn. Individuals were advised to participate purely within their capabilities and not to overstretch their comfort zone.

The results were very marked, as attested to by residents and Care Managers alike. Over a fairly short period of time, improvement was noticed. With spirits raised and circulation improved, social bonding increased as did appetites!

Music, what a wonderful aid to health and well being, plus you don’t need a prescription – and cost can be minimal or zero!

About the Author

Tony Ockendon and his partner Louise have worked closely with Music for Health looking after around 30 Homes in Hampshire which they visit on a regular basis with this excellent health improvement programme. Use the link below to see how this is benefitting thousands and is also providing an excellent business opportunity in this area of health therapy, financially rewarding and with a feel-good factor.

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