Updated: Jan 23, 2022
Is learning an instrument a young person’s game? Is it ever too late to learn to play an instrument? No way! These are questions that we hear from older people who are considering taking online music lessons or music lessons in Toronto with Greater Toronto Music School. One great thing about music is that it is non-discriminatory. Anyone can play, and they can start playing whichever instrument they’d like at any age. The Washington Post reported a growing trend for older adults who want to start learning an instrument. “Some finally have time after their wage-earning and child-raising years have ended. Some are spurred on by studies showing the health benefits of playing music. Many describe it as scratching an itch they’ve had all their lives. And while some are happy to get to the point of playing “Happy Birthday” for their grandchildren, others achieve a level of competence that allows them to join ensembles and even earn money playing.”
After a lifetime of work experience and accomplishments, even the most passionate and driven individuals may find it daunting to begin developing a new craft. Individuals who have accumulated vast knowledge and life experience often set the bar high for themselves, creating feelings of anxiety towards learning an instrument later in life. Children, who frequently start out without specific goals for their studies and few expectations for how their playing should sound, are not afraid to make mistakes and therefore experience this anxiety less frequently. Although this is a source of apprehension, it actually provides an edge to older people. Later in life, people know their strengths and weaknesses, have an understanding of their learning style, and have greater motivation to learn and practice. Students of all ages and skill levels will experience highs and lows, success and failure and make mistakes. We encourage students to use these mistakes as opportunities to learn and embrace them rather than shying away from challenging material all together. Whether you are taking virtual music classes, or enrolled in one-on-one music lessons in Toronto, an experienced instructor will be able to help set challenging but realistic goals that will promote growth as a musician.
Once students get over this initial hurdle and start moving ahead with their learning, they will find that studying music benefits life in ways that might not have been foreseen. There are not only physical and mental benefits to playing music, but “music activities (both music listening and music making) can influence older adults' perceptions about the quality of their lives” Just being around music, whether playing it or not, can have a positive impact on happiness and feelings of overall well being. The Stanford School of Medicine conducted a study with a group of people above the age of 80 who suffered from depression and had them participate in a weekly music therapy group. Their results showed a reduction in stress and anxiety and an increase in self-esteem. It’s important to fill up free time with constructive activities that contribute to physical and mental health, especially during these trying times. If you’ve always wanted to play, why not start today? It’s never too late to contact Greater Toronto Music School to set up your virtual music lessons or music lessons in Toronto.
Music classes can be a major source of fun and enjoyment. Playing an instrument is incredibly rewarding and a great way to have fun and make connections. Not only that, there are plenty of health benefits too.
Jessica Grahn, a neuroscientist from the University of Western Ontario says, “Our brains are less plastic when we’re older, and that’s probably a good thing — rewiring the brain is an intense process,” she said. While children pick up new skills more easily, they also have more trouble with seeing the big picture and controlling their impulses. And adults have an easier time understanding concepts, such as what a scale is and what a chord is, and how they relate to each other. “ So your response might be slower, but that life experience is incredibly useful.” At Greater Toronto Music School, our instructors are experienced in teaching students of all ages and skill levels and will be able to teach you according to your strengths, making learning a fun experience and helping you to learn as quickly and effectively as possible.
Learning to play an instrument might be a bucket list goal for many people. It provides an outlet for creativity, expression, a deeper understanding of the music that you grew up listening to, can provide people with a good social circle and the list goes on. However, there are also health benefits associated with learning to play an instrument, particularly later in life. Dr. Jennifer MacRitchie of the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour, and Development conducted a study on people above the age of 65 learning to play the piano for the first time and she noted that after just six weeks of playing there was an improvement in hand. She notes that the brain actually processes learning an instrument as an exercise, but because it’s a fun activity, the exercise is more subconscious and people don’t realize that it is increasing their dexterity. This is a similar phenomenon to the improved hand dexterity and healthy brain stimulation experienced by people who play video games. Online music lessons also provide senior citizens an opportunity to become more well versed with technology.
From a neurological standpoint, there are benefits to memory and studies have shown that there is an increase in the parts of the brain responsible for memory of Alzheimers and Dementia patients who play an instrument. Aniruddh D. Patel, PhD created the OPERA model to describe why there is a link between playing an instrument and memory.
Overlap: There is an overlap in the anatomy and physiology of the auditory system for speech and music.
Precision: More precision is required for music processing than for speech.
Emotions: The strong emotions often elicited by music may induce plasticity through activation of the brain’s reward centers.
Repetition: Extensive practice tunes the auditory system.
Attention: Focused attention to details of sound is required when playing an instrument.
There is also research that shows benefits for people who have suffered a stroke or have Parkinson’s disease. Hearing a steady rhythm can allow for patients to move more easily. One person who had a stroke was able to regain movement in his leg in less than two months through the use of coordinating the movements in time with music.
In addition to all of these benefits another is that it can provide a shared activity that grandparents and grandchildren can enjoy together. Their musical tastes might differ, they can take lessons together or separately, but there is shared activity for them. They can discuss the things that they are learning, practice together and maybe even start a family band.
Music brings people together. Older adults learning an instrument can forge new friendships by finding other people with whom to play music. Margot Thorning started playing drums at the age of 70 and now plays in two jazz bands. Learning an instrument is a gateway into a community of musicians, you can find other people to play with at any skill level.
Whatever your reason for wanting to learn an instrument is, the Greater Toronto Music School is here for you. Our dedicated team of teachers will work with you to come up with a learning path to suit your needs and learning style. Music brings people joy, increases their perceptions of quality of life, and has a positive impact on memory. Contact us today to get started on your musical journey.