Roberta Marie Kiszer of Joyful Noises Music Studio giving a piano lesson to 81 year old student Willy Klaassen
Here at Joyful Noises Music Studio, we specialize in helping seniors in the Naples, Florida, area reach their music goals.
We have experience teaching older adults learn a variety of instruments.
Whether you are a beginner desiring to learn a new musical instrument in your retirement or an accomplished player wishing to keep your skills sharp,
we are ready to help you discover and develop your musical talents.
Retirement is a great time to consider taking up an instrument.
Research shows that playing a musical instrument has tremendous benefits for older adults.
Roberta Marie Kiszer, director of Joyful Noises Music Studio, discusses these benefits in
"Why Retirement Can Be an Excellent Time to Learn to Play an Instrument" featured in the April 2009 issue of Southwest Florida Retiree magazine.
Roberta Marie Kiszer, instructor and director of Joyful Noises Music Studios, has over 40 years of experience teaching music to students of all ages. She has studied musicology for over 40 years and is a professional pianist who has performed at many of the finest venues in the area. She has a warm, engaging personality that keeps children interested in the topic at hand. Ms. Kiszer is a certified teacher in the state of Florida, with a bachelor's degree in elementary education and a master's degree in Early Childhood Education. She delights in sharing her love and knowledge of music with young and old alike.
Why Retirement Can Be an Excellent Time
to Learn to Play an Instrument
By Roberta Kiszer of Joyful Noises Music Studios
Southwest Florida Retirees Magazine, April 2009
Think you are too old to learn to play a musical instrument? Think again! If you have always dreamed of making sweet melodies on the piano, strumming your favorite tunes on the guitar, or penning your passions into songs, retirement can be the ideal time to learn how.
Not only do seniors have more time and often more appreciation for musical studies, but research shows that learning and playing an instrument in your golden years can yield bountiful benefits. The therapeutic value of musical training includes a boost in brain functionality, a strengthening of the immune system, and an increase in positive thinking – not to mention that learning to play an instrument can be a lot of fun.
Musical study can play an important role in helping seniors keep a sharp mind. Research has linked playing an instrument to the stimulation of areas of the brain involved with memory, which may have implications in preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
For example, a 21-year study by the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx followed 469 seniors between the ages of 75 and 85 who did not have dementia at beginning of the study. The results, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2003[i], demonstrated a strong association between cognitively challenging leisure activities, including playing a musical instrument, and a decreased risk of developing dementia.
Another study, conducted in an Illinois retirement home, revealed that seniors, ranging in age from their late 70s to early 90s, saw a 50 to 70% improvement in their memory after just 16 weeks of learning a new musical instrument.[ii] It is believed that the processes involved in playing a musical instrument may provide the cognitive exercise the brain needs to protect itself against memory loss.
Physical health and playing an instrument also seem to go hand in hand. Research by Dr. Frank Wilson of the University Of California School Of Medicine in San Francisco found that learning to play a musical instrument, besides bettering concentration and memory, also enhanced physical abilities such as coordination and even the improvement of eyesight and hearing. [iii]Another study, the Music Making and Wellness Project, documented that seniors given keyboard lessons had a 90 percent increase in their levels of human growth hormone (hGH), a chemical important in slowing such aging factors as osteoporosis, wrinkling and aches and pains. [iv]
Mental Health Benefits
Learning to play music can help seniors beat the blues, too. The Music Making and Wellness Project also discovered that the seniors who learned to play the keyboard reported decreased depression, lessened anxiety and lowered loneliness levels. [v] In 2005, a research study led by Dr. Barry Bittman found that playing a musical instrument reduced stress more than other relaxing activities such as reading the newspaper.[vi]
We live in uncertain times and many people are carrying heavy stress burdens. Playing a musical instrument can help you refocus on the sublime and feel transported to a more tranquil place.
In over forty years of teaching music to all ages, I have witnessed how learning an instrument can play a vital role in helping people relax and gain perspective. For example, a highly successful businessman and father of four came to me for piano lessons. He was a total beginner on the piano. This man had a high stress level due to the responsibilities of running a multi-million dollar business, and you could see the tension in his face. At one of his piano lessons with me, he sighed deeply and told me, “I had no idea that studying piano would give me so much peace.”
Other Advantages of Musical Studies by Seniors
Learning music can help with memory retention, and adds to your physical and emotional well-being, but learning an instrument in your senior years has other pluses as well. These include allowing you to express yourself spiritually and creatively, and even introducing you to new friendships as you pursue your love of music. Finally, but perhaps most importantly, you can enrich the lives of your grandchildren and others around you through the gift of music.
One of my students was a grandmother in her eighties who always wanted to learn the ukulele. She admired Lucy Ricardo of I Love Lucy who also played the ukulele. This dear lady wanted to learn how to play this instrument but never had time when she was younger as she was so busy raising her family. Retirement offered her the opportunity to fulfill the desire of her heart, which was to play Christmas carols for her grandchildren. I will always remember how delighted she was with her progress, waltzing out of my music studio, singing and playing Jingle Bells.
My first advice to seniors wanting to learn to play a new instrument is to find an instructor who has experience teaching older adults who are beginners. Also, look for a music instructor who is a professional musician with a good reputation in the community. Affordability is also a consideration, and whether the instructor is willing to travel to you, as some seniors feel more at ease learning in the comfort of their own home.
It is important to find an instructor with a friendly, uplifting personality. You need someone who is patient, encouraging and who has vision so that your music lesson becomes one of the highlights of your week, rather than something you dread. You will remain enthusiastic about practicing and you will be less likely to quit if you have a music instructor who views your learning an instrument as a retiree as an exciting new journey in your life.
Do not feel intimidated to pick up the phone and schedule that first lesson. Weeks from now, when you are learning to play and reaping the benefits of music instruction, you will be glad you did not let fear of the unknown stop you.
Why is learning music so good for us? Well, learning to read and play music is like learning a new language—it requires abstract thinking as well as hand-eye coordination. It challenges us cognitively and physically. It is an outlet for us to express ourselves emotionally. And, yes, don’t forget that learning to make beautiful music can be a source of great enjoyment in your golden years, not just for you, but for those who listen to you play.
Roberta Kiszer of Joyful Noises Music Studio is a professional musician and music teacher in Naples, FL with over 40 years of experience teaching music to all ages, including seniors. She can be contacted at 239 352-6189 or 239 821-7657 or visit her web site at joyfulnoisesmusic.com
[i] Joe Verghese, M.D., et al. “Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, “ New England Journal of Medicine 348:2508-2516 (June 19, 2003) http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/348/25/2508
[ii] Patrick B. Massey, M.D., Ph.D., “Learning an Instrument Seems to Help Mental Function,” Daily Herald; 26 September 2005 http://www.redorbit.com/news/health/256111/learning_an_instrument_seems_to_help_mental_function/
[iii] M Mueller, “Right Brain Strategies for the Full Development of the Individual Through Study of the Arts,” A Review of General Session II ACC-VACC Conference, Sacramento, Ca. February 21, 1984. San Francisco, City College of San Francisco
[iv]Midori Koga, “The Music Making and Wellness Project,” American Music Teacher, October-November 2005
[v] Midori Koga, “The Music Making and Wellness Project,” American Music Teacher, October-November 2005
[vi] “Playing a musical instrument found to reverse stress,” American Music Teacher, June-July 2005
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