The Value and Benefits of Music Therapy

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

They say that ‘music hath charms to soothe the savage breast,’ and although we personally don’t have research on that, we do know that music is incredibly powerful for all of us. We’ve all experienced moments when a song has filled us with emotion, or been transported back in time when hearing a favorite song from the past. Many of our most precious memories and life moments are associated with music, which makes it a powerful sensory tool for seniors living with dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease.

“Over the past few years, we have seen wonderful things occur when music therapy is integrated into memory care,” says Michelle Pelham, Executive Director at Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua, a memory care assisted living community in Nashua, NH. “When cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s have progressed to a certain point, the individual can’t speak or communicate normally. But when music therapy is used, we’ve seen residents sing, clap their hands and even carry on conversations for a short time. It’s really like magic.”

Neuroscience has recently been discovering how memory, music and abilities are linked to one another. The part of our brain that is responsible for processing and storing music is often not affected by cognitive diseases like dementia, so when other abilities and mental processes are gone, the music-related part of the brain helps override the gaps and creates opportunities for communication and connection.

“At Bridges by EPOCH at Nashua, we’ve seen and experienced meaningful moments like this through our music therapy program and the use of Eversound technology,” Michelle says. Eversound® is a wireless headphone system designed specifically to help provide therapies to senior living residents. This amazing technology is used in music therapy to promote well-being, eliminate the frustration that comes from background “buzz,” allows easy streaming of interactive programming and provides communication opportunities for care teams, residents and family members.

“This program also enables us to create personalized music therapy options for our residents with input from family members and friends,” Michelle explains. “These familiar tunes can help unlock memories so residents and their loved ones can engage, experience and create meaningful moments, even in the very late stage of the disease.”


The Benefits of Music Therapy      

Here are just a few of the ways that music therapy provides amazing results in individuals with cognitive decline.



Have you ever laughed or cried whenever listening to a song? Has it ever made you think or remember? What about performing music yourself? Research has shown that music causes chemical changes to take place in our brain. Listening to music releases hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin, which allow us to bond while also getting a “happy high.” So while we may experience music through our heart, we process it – and benefit from it – in our brain.

“We’ve seen residents experience a wide range of emotions when listening to music,” says Michelle. “It helps bridge the gaps of memory loss and enables deep emotions and feelings that might not otherwise be tapped into.”



Alongside our emotions, our mental and brain health can be affected drastically by music. A 2009 study found that our brains link memories and music together to evoke meaningful moments. It also helps reduce stress, improves mental alertness, lifts moods and helps reduce depression.



We used to think that when our brain cells were damaged, they were gone forever. That’s no longer the case. Neuroplasticity (the brain’s ability to create new pathways when it’s been damaged) is a phenomenon that allows brains to repair themselves when they’ve been damaged, and music is one of the stimuli that works best. It literally helps our brains rewire themselves to find new pathways to function and memory.


How Music Therapy Helps Seniors Stay Healthy and Happy


  • It’s effective. According to research, musical aptitude and appreciation tend to be the final remaining abilities for those living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. This means that music therapy can be used to reach individuals in ways that other forms of communication can’t.
  • It helps provide emotional and physical closeness. Sharing emotions becomes increasingly difficult as dementia progresses. The old phrase, “Where words fail, music speaks,” and this is increasingly true for those with memory loss.
  • It increases engagement. Singing activates the left side of the brain, while listening to music increases activity on the left side. When individuals with cognitive decline watch music being played, it makes the visual parts of their brain more active.
  • It bypasses cognitive issues. Music allows for little to no processing mentally, which means that those with dementia like Alzheimer’s disease are able to sing along and clap their hands regardless of their cognitive function.


Music therapy is something that’s integrated throughout daily life at Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua, says Michelle. “We offer both active and passive therapies,” she says. “Both have different benefits that can be used to reach specific goals.”


Passive therapy occurs when music happens in the background, such as if a team member plays familiar music when working with an individual resident. This helps the resident feel calmer, evokes memories and provides opportunities to share and bond. All the individual has to do is listen – not do.


Active therapy involves therapies where the person participates in creating music. This can be as simple as singing or clapping along to music, or it can be as complex as playing an instrument. Active therapy is great for involving a wide variety of abilities and all the senses, boosting physical ability, lowering stress and so much more.


“Activities and therapies that use more than one sense at the same time are some of the best techniques for boosting mood and maintaining the highest possible mental function,” says Michelle. “Music therapy stimulates so many parts of the brain, and it’s also incredibly fun to participate in, for both the individual with dementia and their loved ones. It’s some of the most meaningful work we do, helping create opportunities for connection, reminiscing and emotional happiness.”


A Fulfilling Lifestyle

Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua provides expert memory care within an assisted living environment that is comfortable, positive and engaging. Exclusively dedicated to caring for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, our community offers a wellness-focused lifestyle that promotes dignity, independence and fulfilment in daily life.


Dedicated Memory Care

Our programs, care and services are all designed to celebrate our residents’ lives and support each resident’s individual strengths and abilities. No matter what stage of memory loss a resident may be experiencing, our memory care professionals work to maximize their independence in a secure, calm environment – making a truly positive impact on the lives of our residents every day.


Stunning, Purpose-Built Design

Featuring a stunning, purposeful design, Bridges® by EPOCH at Nashua is so much more than a beautiful place to live . . . It’s a community focused on enriching the lives of our residents and helping their families enjoy meaningful relationships with them. Our evidence-based design features, including soft paint colors, directional cues, aromatherapy and interactive life stations, provide a soothing and easy-to-navigate environment.

Bridges® by EPOCH is New England’s largest stand-alone memory care assisted living provider.


Contact us today to learn more. 

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