The Missing Piece: Music in Geriatric Health
As more people with longer life expectancies begin to age and the elderly population doubles, successful aging becomes increasingly important. Instead of focusing on the components of successful aging: maintaining productivity, activity, independence, and positive social relations in the elderly, the American healthcare system mainly emphasizes treating illnesses when they become diagnosable problems, spending billions of extra dollars a year. To reduce overall healthcare costs and effectively target the root of disease, music therapy, which is a mind-body practice under complementary and alternative medicine, may be the solution. A majority of people have a general appreciation of music as it is a commonly perceived entertainment source as well as emotional outlet. Research, however, has shown that music also has healing potential. Music can maintain and even improve physical and cognitive function as well as mental and emotional health and can reduce anxiety, agitation, and stress. The purpose of this thesis was to explore whether components of successful aging can be realized through music and, in turn, whether music can empower the elderly to continue actively engaging with the community. To begin exploring these ideas, I examined peer-reviewed literature on the topic from the years 2008- to 2015. Increased knowledge of the benefits of music on the elderly, as well as on their caregivers, can induce societal and policy changes to support these measures. These changes in physician and patient education can and should lead to the integration of music into the American healthcare system, shifting the focus of healthcare from disease treatment to prevention, wellness, and well-being.