What are you doing to make sure you’re aging well? Most people watch their diet, visit their doctors more frequently, and try to exercise more. But is that enough to make your senior years successful?
A documentary, Alive Inside, argues that to truly age well, one needs the arts. The film explores the role music plays in memory, citing cases of patients with dementia and even seniors with typically failing memories suddenly being able to recall vivid scenes from their past with the aid of familiar music. The idea is this: Playing favorite or familiar music for a subject will help trigger vivid recollections, even if the subject’s brain isn’t functioning as it once did. This musical therapy has even inspired the Music and Memory Project, which funds iPods for seniors who can deeply benefit from enjoying music that meant so much to them long ago.
But music isn’t the only thing keeping seniors young at heart. Both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Institute on Aging have programs that promote all forms of the arts to seniors. Whether painting, composing, dancing, or appreciating, an appetite for the arts seems to help seniors enjoy the aging process. Some seniors write novels or screenplays that a senior acting troop can bring to life. Some seniors paint abstract or classical art to decorate their rooms or local senior centers. The form of expression doesn’t seem to matter as long as something is being expressed creatively.
Some scientists believe that it’s not the art, but the social engagement that is critical to keeping seniors vital. But studies have shown that listening to familiar music, even without engaging with others, can improve memory.
So this weekend, why not plan to include a little art in your life? Catch a concert or go to the symphony with friends. Sign up for a painting class and learn a new technique. Or sit down and write out that story idea that’s buzzing around in your head. Expressing yourself creatively may be the key to keeping yourself happy as you age.