My fellow Institute for Arts Entrepreneurship classmate, Brenda Starr Woods, introduced me to the term “positive aging,” as she focuses on encouraging positive aging through teaching people of all ages tap dance. Particularly seeing her work with seniors has been nothing less than inspiring. For most of my life, I have respected and honored my elders, and the concept of positive aging takes a further step to enliven their lives by encouraging participation in activities that invigorate them.
As usual, such encouragement in music comes in different shapes or forms.
1. Therapeutic: Music therapy as a discipline is something that some don’t take seriously, but take a look at this clip that shows the fantastic effect music has on those who have been affected by dementia.
2. Participatory/community: There are groups, ensembles, and clubs that invite older musicians to play or sing together to make them feel part of something and to create a feeling of community. In many places, there are community choirs through senior centers and music clubs.
3. Performance: There are some ensembles made up of seniors that perform on a regular basis for fun, for profit, or like this group called “The Merry Musicians” – to bring awareness to a particular issue.
4. Professional Development: Many life-long musicians continue their practice on their instruments or voices simply because they understand the concept of life-long learning. The response Pablo Casals offered when asked why he continues to practice at age 90 (“Because I think I’m making progress”) fits this well.
I think that we can develop many more opportunities for seniors in the future. I have in mind some collaborative studies with grandparents and grandchildren to work together in learning an instrument or appreciating music. Creating chamber music gatherings for people of all ability levels can encourage musical involvement for as long as possible. Those are just a few ideas for music’s current and upcoming role in positive aging.