As the first vibrant colors of the autumn season begin to pop up all around Southwestern Wisconsin, we adjust to the changes around us. While the weather changes, so does our wardrobe, and as we change our clocks back and the sun rises a bit earlier for those few weeks, we may have to wake up a bit earlier to take advantage of the sunlight, which never seems to stay long enough! Changes associated with aging can be similar to the leaves changing on the trees; these changes occur slowly over time and in varying degrees.
Music can be used as a tool for managing changes associated with aging and slowing the progression of some of these changes. Changes in the weather can bring about seasonal aches and pains with the fluctuation of air pressure and temperature, and along with it, a reminder that staying active is important to maintaining physical health, flexibility, and mobility. Select preferred music to create a playlist to support some daily, light exercise. Start with selections with a slower tempo for warm-ups, and gradually increase tempo to match the highest intensity of exercise performed. Even supplementing a walk with a steady beat can provide motivation to walk just a bit faster and for a longer duration. Our bodies will naturally entrain to an external beat so music that matches the desired speed of exercise can be a goal to work toward. Just be mindful that the tempo is not too fast as this can increase risk for falling.
Changes in circadian rhythms and sleep patterns are common during the aging process. Music can be utilized as a sleep aid by creating a playlist to support a slowing of respiration and heart rate. Tempo of the music should approximately match the individual’s current rate of respiration, and then gradually slow. Music can be burned to a CD, played through headphones, or selected through a music streaming service and set to an appropriate station.
Some older adults begin to notice a weakening of the voice or reduced breath support throughout the aging process. Singing naturally supports deep, diaphragmatic breaths. Similar breathing patterns to that of singing can be used when speaking to support a healthy speaking voice. Breathe deeply, from the lower abdomen, and expel full breaths when speaking. Warm up your voice before speaking for longer periods of time by humming, which puts less stress on the vocal apparatus.
Seasons are inevitable and bring upon welcomed and unwelcomed changes. Music may help tolerate these changes and bring out the best in each season of the year, or also of your own life. Some of our favorite songs of the current season are “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds, and “Country Roads” by John Denver. What are your favorite songs that remind you of autumn or fall? How do you use music to stay positive, energized, and engaged when you become discouraged by the changes you see in the weather; or possibly the changes you see in yourself, your spouse, your parent, or a loved one?
“But now the days grow short, I’m in the autumn of the year
And now I think of my life as vintage wine from fine old kegs
From the brim to the dregs, it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year.”
Lyrics from “It was a Very Good Year” by Frank Sinatra
~ Andrea Halvorson, MA, MT-BC, WMTR