Music is not only a fun source of entertainment, but it also has many potential benefits in regards to older adults. Music can help aid feelings of loneliness and isolation among older adults, and it can even improve their cognition.
Introduction of Products
Music applications are very common among young generations. However, they could be useful for older adults as well. One particular music app is called Pandora and it is used to stream music off of a smartphone, through a computer, or a tablet. It contains music from a wide variety of genres and time periods. The application itself is free to download, but there is an upgrade that can be purchased monthly which allows for customers to listen to music without the advertisements, which are featured on the free version of the application. Pandora is very easy to set up. Once the app is downloaded, there are basic instructions displayed on the screen to help guide the customer in setting up an account. The user simply needs to type in an artist or genre of music that they are interested in into the search bar, and a radio station revolving around this subject is created.
Spotify is another music application. It too allows users to stream music off of their technological devices. It has many of the same benefits as Pandora, as well as a few more. It encompasses a wider variety of songs than Pandora does, and allows users to create their own playlists as well as skip songs unlimitedly. Spotify also contains a variety of premade playlists to fit various individual’s interests and taste in music. However, Spotify costs $9.99 per month, and it is more challenging to get used to using because it is more extravagant than Pandora, and contains more features than Pandora does.
How These Products Can Serve Older Adults
Loneliness tends to be a common trait that is present among plenty of older adults. A study conducted on 151 adults, aged sixty-five and up verified this notion (X, et al., 2016) This study was conducted by interviewing participants and was concluded that levels of loneliness (the dependent variable) were very high among older adults whom had less social ties (the independent variable) (X, et al., 2016). The people that had more social contact, such as living with family members, were a control group, and showed lower levels of loneliness (X, et al., 2016). This loneliness often results from the fact that their children have moved out, and in many cases, spouses have passed away. The most common type of family structure in the United States is the nuclear family, which consists of parents and children living together (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). This family structure excludes extended family, which in turn contributes to the loneliness of older adults. On the other hand, the majority of older adults do remain close with their children, whom often feel a filial obligation (desire to care for their parents) and tend to provide care for them (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Despite the fact that many adult children care for their parents, loneliness among older adults is still very common because many of them live alone, and therefore spend a lot of time on their own when they are not being cared for. Music aps are not a full-proof solution to the issue of loneliness, but they do have the potential to aid feelings of loneliness. This is because listening to music can fill the silence in an empty house, and the rhythms and sounds of people’s voices can allow older adults to feel like they are not completely alone.
For many older adults, it is hard for them to get from place to place, which leads to feelings of isolation from other human beings. Pandora and Spotify could help lessen feelings of isolation, again, by filling their living space with sounds. Struggles with mobility that lead to isolation among older adults stem from physical deterioration of the body that is a part of primary aging. For example, older adults are prone to sarcopenia, which is the reduction of muscle size (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). This inevitably makes it more challenging for them to walk and get from place to place. In fact, muscle reduction escalates immensely once individuals turn seventy, and the majority of this muscle loss happens in the legs, making them prone to falling, further contributing to this isolation (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Another physical deterioration that inhibits older adults from getting from place to place is loss of vision. As individuals age, their corneas become blurry and less light is able to travel through them, which leads to worsening vision (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Additionally, adaption slows down with age as a result of weakening muscles within the Iris (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). This makes it harder to drive at nighttime, once again, leading to isolation among older adults. Music apps will not solve the problem of isolation among older adults because they are unable to transport them and help them get around, but they can work to lessen feelings of isolation among older adults.
The brain is prone to much deterioration as a result of aging. For example, the cortex becomes thinner and neurotransmitters such as dopamine decline (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). These changes can lead to declines in memory and executive functioning (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Research suggests that exposure to music is associated with increases in cognitive functioning (Hars, et al., 2014). In this particular study, 134 adults, over the age of sixty-five, were exposed to background music as they performed multitasks. This longitudinal study lasted six months and contained a control group in which the participants were not exposed to any music. By the end of this time period, cognitive functioning among the older adults (the dependent variable) that were exposed to music (the independent variable) had improved. Additionally, these older adults also showed decreased levels of anxiety by the end of the study (Hars, et al., 2014). The benefits that music has on the cognition and mental health of older adults demonstrates a very positive impact that Pandora and Spotify can have on the lives of older adults.
After establishing the ways in which music apps can enhance the lives and well being of older adults, it is important to evaluate the potential hardships that older adults could experience while using these apps, in order to see whether or not it would be worth it to expose more older adults to these apps. One potential drawback regarding these apps is the fact that dexterity is required in order to operate them. Many older adults struggle with dexterity due to deteriorations in their joints, which make it more difficult for them to use their fingers. Arthritis is a condition that is common in many older adults which affects their joints (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Rheumatoid arthritis is very common in fingers, and causes stiffness and swelling (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). The impacts that Rheumatoid arthritis has on older adults could make it difficult for them to operate these apps because they require a lot of typing and scrolling to find songs and pick out playlists. Subsequently, vision impairments could make it challenging for older adults to use the applications, because they could have a hard time seeing the screen. Two common vision impairments that many older adults are faced with are cataracts (in which the lens becomes opaque and cannot transmit light,) and Glaucoma (In which fluid does not drain and pressure increases which destroys the optic nerve) (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). Either one of these conditions would make it very difficult for an older adult to operate Pandora or Spotify. Presbyopia is also common among older adults, and it inhibits them from seeing something close up (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). This too, would inhibit the ability of an older adult to operate either one of these aps. Additionally, hearing impairments are common among older adults. These impairments could make it very challenging for them to hear the music that the apps are providing, therefore making that apps useless to that individual. Nerve degeneration is a part of aging that leads to hearing loss, and on top of this, many older adults have Presbycusis—reduced sensitivity to high pitched sounds, which could make it hard for them to hear music clearly (Cavanaugh & Blanchard-Fields, 2015). However, despite these deteriorations, older adults can get hearing aids, which can improve their hearing and still allow them to hear the tunes that the apps provide. Overall, despite the hardships that the apps could pose to older adults, the benefits seem to outweigh these potential challenges.
Bai, X., Yang, S., & Knapp, M. (2016). Social Support, Loneliness And Life Satisfaction In Older Adults Living Alone. The Gerontologist, 56(Suppl_3), 714-714. doi:10.1093/geront/gnw162.2911
Cavanaugh, J. C., & Blanchard-Fields, F. (2015). Adult development and aging. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Hars, M., Herrmann, F. R., Gold, G., Rizzoli, R., & Trombetti, A. (2014). Effect of music-based multitask training on cognition and mood in older adults. Age and Ageing, 43(2), 196-200. doi:10.1093/ageing/aft163