“I always wanted to play the (fill in the blank: piano, guitar, violin, whatever), but now I’m too old to learn.”
Nonsense. We’re never too old to learn, and learning to play an instrument offers more than just making pleasant sounds. It actually can slow the aging process.
Music helps children with math and reading. Clapping out rhythms connects note values to their numerical equivalents — a half note is twice as long as a quarter note, and its reverse. Rhythm comes naturally to little kids, and besides — it’s fun.
Recently on this page, Northwestern University research about brain response speed was reviewed. They tested young versus old. Half of each age had learned music, half had no music training. The findings offer us well-seasoned brains reason for hope: It appears that music lessons help older folks think faster.
Other research on age-related hearing loss goes even further. It looks like learning music could help us hang onto our memory, and even help us hear better when there’s lots of noise around us.
“But I didn’t study music when I was a kid,” you protest. Ha! Another study at Southern Illinois University’s medical school indicates that, with older adults, intensive music training can improve speech processing.
Scientific proof is interesting, but the real benefit to making music is simply the making of music.
When you hear one of the old songs from our carefree days, it all comes flooding back. You remember when and where and with whom. Often, without really thinking, even the words flow from your throat. Where I live, we have a small chorus. We practice every week. Four times a year, we put on a seasonal program that nearly all of our fellow residents turn out to enjoy.
So what’s holding you back? Get smart. Find yourself a teacher, and start making music.