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Tune Your Brain Into the Classics

Listening to music provides many social, physical and psychological benefits for seniors and senior brainsThe delightful flood of nostalgia that sweeps over us when we hear entertainment from our past is more than just a fleeting joy. It’s also a workout for our brains. Thanks to the digitization of old media, including music, radio shows, commercials, and film, you are just a few clicks away from enjoying the benefits of revisiting these with your loved ones.

A Musical Shortcut to Memory Lane

Listening to music provides many social, physical and psychological benefits. Neurological research shows that listening to music fires up networks in a number of different areas of the brain, including those responsible for movement, feelings, and creativity. Brain imaging studies show that music specifically activates an area of the brain that is one of the last to be affected by Alzheimer’s disease. As such, hearing familiar music can invoke long forgotten memories, even among those with significant memory loss.

Building a playlist that is personal may be as straightforward as remembering or asking, but it’s easy to forget details. Sometimes we can remember snippets of lyrics, such as the chorus. Typing these lyrics into Google, in quotes, may instantly reveal the artist and song. If the collection of words is too common, Find Music By Lyrics allows you to search several lyrics databases at once.

If you or your loved one can remember a bit of the melody, amazingly, there’s an app for that called SoundHound, which may be able to identify songs you sing or hum. NameMyTune is a “crowd-sourced” option where you can upload a clip of humming or singing, and people will attempt to identify the song.

If you are relying on guesswork to build a playlist for another person, research suggests the most potent period for musical memories is from the mid-teens to early twenties. Google “Hits of…” and enter various years in that span for ideas of what your loved one may have been hearing. Ask brothers, sisters and friends. Don’t forget to consider theme songs from movies and shows, hymns, school songs, lullabies and traditional/ancestral music. Old records and sheet music are a ready source of ideas too.

If you are compiling music for someone in your care, keep in mind their comfort with technology. Burning songs onto a CD, or loading MP3s onto a simple device may be the most accessible approach, but don’t discount the ease of a tablet playlist that can be as little as 2 taps away. This is a great opportunity to engage younger generations in care, as they may be particularly adept at compiling an accessible playlist. Playlist For Life has more detailed instructions on ways to create a playlist for yourself or those you care for.

Comedy keeps us sharp

For much of the 20th century, radio was a primary source of comedy and storytelling. Taking a trip back to some of these serials may trigger happy memories, and more importantly, may invoke the many benefits of laughter, such as lowered blood pressure, activation of muscles in the body’s core, and reduced anxiety.

Research has shown that despite a decline in our capacity to produce humour and laughter itself as we age, our appreciation of humour increases. Certain types of humour challenge us to think in ways that can buffer against cognitive decline. Revisiting the humour that shaped us may help keep those neural pathways intact for longer.

If you have a particular serial in mind, the Old Time Radio Network has an alphabetical list of thousands of archived radio programs you can download as MP3s, including Abbot and Costello, Amos ‘n’ Andy, and Jack Benny. You can also stream various programs directly from Old Time Radio. You can play vintage radio directly from categories on the Old Time Radio Player Google app, or Old Time Radio Streamer on iTunes.

Last but not least, YouTube is a rich source of music, radio, television and film nostalgia. With millions of users digitizing and posting archival material, you may be able to find even the most obscure media, such as local commercials, concerts and news clips. Young people may especially enjoy being able to facilitate exploring vintage entertainment with their loved ones.

Do you have tips or stories about finding old gems online? Share them the comments below!

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