Can music enhance wellbeing in older-age?

Jenny Groarke`
Jul 16 2013 Posted: 16:23 IST

The power of music to enhance wellbeing is being explored by researchers at NUI Galway. Jenny Groarke, a musician and PhD student at the School of Psychology in NUI Galway, is seeking volunteers for her research project on the benefits of music listening.

Jenny is seeking participants aged 18-30 years and 60-85 years to join focus group sessions. Volunteers will spend 2-3 hours in small groups discussing the reasons they listen to music, and then vote for what they believe is most beneficial for well-being. Jenny explains: “We hope to understand how we can use listening to music to improve well-being, which will certainly benefit younger and older adults in the future.”

These focus group sessions are ongoing at NUI Galway and emerging evidence suggests that people listen to music for a wide range of reasons, but their reasons for listening are primarily emotional.

“Music has long been known to give rise to positive feelings, memories and emotions”, explains Jenny. “People of all ages listen to music to cope with the stresses of everyday life, they listen to music to connect with others in social situations, and those who are isolated say they often listen to music to reduce feelings of loneliness.”

Through her research, Jenny has already discovered some differences in music listening between younger and older adults. Unsurprisingly, young adults are more likely to listen to music to attract potential love interests and older adults often listen to music to remind them of dear friends and relatives now departed.

Jenny adds, “Galway is a city filled with music and musicians, so we anticipated that music would be an important part of people’s lives. Music seems to increase in importance in older age and this is something we didn’t expect. One music-lover, aged 70, went as far as to say that “Jazz has given me a new life, a second chance”.

The Galway native was inspired to study the link between music and well-being in older adults by her late grandfather Jimmy Dooley, who sang in the Augustinian choir for more than 65 years and played the drums in the Galway Bay Jazz band in Busker Brownes every Sunday. She has also set up a business, Sing-Bang Music Workshops, which brings music workshops to nursing homes to improve memory ability, happiness, and quality of life in elderly adults through group music making.

For more information on volunteering for the research please visit, email or phone 086 0333 033.


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