“Turn Down That Music!”
You’ve probably read about the many therapeutic benefits music offers for healthy aging. Music promotes physical, mental and emotional health. Music has been found to boost the immune system, and is even used to help people with Alzheimer’s disease access old memories and become more aware of the present.
However, a new study from Georgia Institute of Technology suggests that there may be times when it’s better to turn off the music—especially as we grow older. While teens seem to do just fine listening to their favorite tunes while they do their homework, a musical background is probably not the best environment for seniors who want to concentrate.
The researchers gave a memory task test to college-age test subjects and to a group of older adults. All participants tried their hand at the task in a silent setting, and then with a music in the background. The college-age participants did just as well with the music on, but the senior participants experienced a 10 percent decrease in their performance.
Sarah Reaves, the head researcher, explained that the results are related to the well-known “cocktail party effect,” where we are able to tune out all the other voices around us and hear the person to whom we are speaking. As we grow older, it’s harder to concentrate and ignore the irrelevant noises. Suggests Reaves, “Older adults who struggle to concentrate while meeting with coworkers at a coffee shop, for example, should schedule meetings in quieter locations. When people get lost while driving, it’s probably best to turn off the radio.”
Reaves and her team also suggest that this study could be useful for assisted living and other senior facilities. “They should be mindful of their surroundings,” she says. “Maybe employees should turn off music during learning activities, or hold them in a quiet room.”
Source: IlluminAge AgeWise reporting on a study by Georgia Institute of Technology, as published in Gerontologist, the journal of the Gerontological Society of America. Read more about the study here.