Powerful Benefits of Learning a Musical Instrument After 50


Posted on: 10 June 2016 by Kelly Smith

While the younger generations may have some cerebral edge when it comes to learning in general, your brain is capable of some pretty impressive development at any age.

Think it’s impossible to learn an instrument as an adult? Think again. While the younger generations may have some cerebral edge when it comes to learning in general, your brain is capable of some pretty impressive development at any age. Relying on cerebral plasticity to essentially build new neural pathways and connections, your brain can be rewired to play a musical instrument. It may take a little extra time and patience, but it absolutely can be done. Here’s why it’s a worthwhile challenge!

It’s a stress and anxiety reliever

You may have even read some of the studies that have found scientific evidence to back this one up. In short, simply listening to music can have physiological stress-relieving effects, like decreasing blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. Of course, this depends on the type of music you listen to, quiet classical being the most effective stress reliever. And learning to play music has the added benefit of offering an in-depth distraction from daily stressors.

Your brain gets a boost

While you may have heard that learning a musical instrument is a great way to slow cognitive decline, did you know that the complexity involved is more than you imagined? For example, playing an instrument is a full-brain workout. So while other activities may only activate one area of the brain, playing an instrument activates much of the entire brain while building new synapses between cells.

Further, Florida-based researcher Jennifer Bugos has demonstrated that you don’t need to be a lifelong musician in order to experience cognitive gains. Her study shows that after six months of piano lessons, the cohort of students aged 60 to 85 had greater gains in processing speed, memory, and other measures, compared to the control group (source).

It can be a bonding experience

Taking on music lessons with a family member can be a great way to strengthen relationships and have fun. You will also have someone to hold you accountable and keep you from quitting, and vice versa. For those who have family or friends who are already musically inclined, you can bond over jamming together.

It increases your self-esteem

The combination of learning a new skill, paired with the cognitive improvements in mood, can have a tremendous effect on your self-esteem. Even if you’re a little shy at first, mastering even the basics will offer a confidence boost.

It’s a creative outlet

After devoting much of your time to work or family, you may have found that you’ve had little time for artistic endeavors over the years, and have a lot of pent up creativity waiting to be expressed. Now’s the time! And for those learning a musical instrument, such creativity is often inspired by the music they admire, which can help to guide you to your instrument of choice.

You’ll learn some history along the way

Music is deeply engrained in cultures around the world, so it’d be difficult to separate learning a musical instrument (and the music itself!) from its origins. It is an often very personal reflection of the time in which it was created, and worth learning about as much as learning to play it.

While learning to play an instrument as an adult may be more challenging, don’t let that deter you. You can set goals, sure, but the real value is in the learning process. Failure to meet your musical goals does not mean that you haven’t experienced the benefits described above, so relax and enjoy yourself on this new musical endeavor! 

Kelly Smith works at CourseFinder, an Australian online education resource. She is passionate about the Australian startup scene and new marketing trends.

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