Music is Good for All Ages

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“Active engagement with music in old age provides many ongoing benefits to older people, including positive self-esteem, feeling competent and independent, avoiding feelings of isolation or loneliness (Hays & Minichello, 2005), maintaining or building cognitive skills (Prickett, 1998), and fostering socialization (Carr, 2006; Coffman and Adamek, 1999; Pricket 1998; Southcott, 2009),” says researcher Peter deVries in a recent article.

DeVries, who teaches at Monash University in Frankston, Victoria, examined three older Australians’ active engagement in music-making with children.

Five key themes about intergenerational (IG) music participation were revealed by his research:

1. IG music experiences promoted social engagement.
2. IG music experiences fostered the development of positive attitudes about young people.
3. Choice in music-making was valued in the IG music experiences.
4. The older Australians who participated felt valued and respected.
5. There was the perception of reciprocity in the learning that occurred.

DeVries concluded that students in elementary and secondary schools might benefit from the addition of intergenerational music-making opportunities. Of course, the elders would benefit as well!
The biggest lesson for the students involved might be the fact that these senior musicians model lifelong music learning and participation in the arts.

NAfME member Wendy L. Sims, academic editor of the Journal of Research in Music Education (JRME), is a professor of music education and directs the music education program at the University of Missouri--Columbia. Peter DeVries study, “Intergenerational Music Making: A Phenomenological Study of Three Older Australians Making Music with Children,” was published in the January 2012 JRME (Vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 339–56). [NAfME members can purchase a subscription to the JRME from Member Services by calling 800-828-0229 between 8:00 and 4:30 ET.]

--Ella Wilcox, January 6, 2012, © National Association for Music Education (