Learning an instrument 'helps older people'

People who learn a musical instrument may find the activity is likely to result in a number of benefits when they get older. This is the finding of new research from Northwestern University, which showed that musical training can help restrict some effects of ageing - such as memory loss and an inability to hear speech through exterior noise.

Published online in the journal PLoS One, the study revealed that musicians between the ages of 45 and 65 enjoy much better auditory memory than those who are unable to play songs.

It was discovered that people who use musical instruments were also able to make more sense of conversations held at a time when other sounds are also prominent.

Nina Kraus, director of the Auditory Neuroscience Laboratory, said that difficulty hearing speech in noise "is among the most common complaints of older adults, but age-related hearing loss only partially accounts for this impediment that can lead to social isolation and depression".

Professor Susan Hallam, Chartered Psychologist, said: "These findings mirror those of a recent UK study undertaken under the auspices of the New Dynamics of Aging Programme which has explored the role of active music making in enhancing older people's well being."

"The UK study found that in comparison with older people taking part in other group activities, for instance, book clubs or painting, the music groups had higher scores on a range of measures relating to autonomy, control, pleasure and relatedness and reported positive benefits in relation to health, alleviation of depression and enhanced memory and concentration."

"In addition, those in the 4th age tended to show little deterioration in relation to these measures as might have been expected."

A recent study from the University of British Columbia and Pennsylvania State University found that marital relations can have a significant effect on the health of older people.