A Course of Piano Lessons for Seniors– Just What the Doctor Ordered!
It may not be the usual prescription from your G.P., but there is plenty of evidence that a course of piano lessons could be just the ticket for many Senior Citizens. Not only are there proven physical benefits, there is also evidence that learning piano later in life boosts mental health.
I teach Senior Citizens to play piano using a patented method of patterns and numbers called 'DecPlay' which makes the fundamentals of music much easier to understand; and which is particularly suited to students facing physical challenges. One of the benefits is that students can play songs on piano quickly without having to learn to read traditional music notation, which is on of the biggest barriers that prevents people from learning piano.
The Senior Citizens on my course find themselves dealing with a variety of health challenges which include low sight & hearing; arthritis in the fingers; dyslexia, muscular atrophy; and recovery from stroke, to name but a few. They find that the flexibility of the DecPlay method allows them to enjoy playing, despite such challenges.
Having seen with my own eyes how our students have benefitted from playing piano, I set about finding out more. Here’s what I’ve learnt:
- Making music can lessen depression and anxiety, according to this article from ‘Live Science’: https://www.livescience.com/40597-playing-musical-instrument-good-health.html
- Learning to play piano has a very real effect on neural pathways, leading to “positive outcomes” for both auditory and cognitive functioning, as well as dexterity, as evidenced by this article from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6368928/)
- This article also suggests that regular practise on an electronic keyboard can lessen the pain felt by those who suffer arthritis in their fingers. Not only that, players’ fingers become stronger over time – an advantage which carries through into many other daily activities.
- This New York Times article shares the insights of a doctor treating an arthritis patient as she plays piano:(https://www.nytimes.com/1985/10/27/nyregion/for-arthritis-victim-piano-is-treatment.html). Musing on the effects of his patient’s playing, he reflects “I think it has helped her hands … it maintains strength and range of motion in the joints.”
The findings of research on the link between piano playing and arthritis relief are supported by comments from several of our students. For example, Pam, a student dealing with chronic arthritis, tells me that after several months of following the DecPlay course, she has stopped using her pain relieving medication as the pain in her fingers has lessened significantly. (You can read more about Pam’s arthritis story here: https://decplay.com/learning-piano-with-arthritis/)
DecPlay students experience more than just physical and mental health benefits. The course offers membership of an exclusive, supportive and fun-loving group of like-minded Seniors through our student Facebook Group and regular Group Q&A Zoom sessions.
The Facebook group and Zoom calls are protected, safe spaces where our Seniors come together to share, and celebrate, their achievements. For some, this support network has proved instrumental (forgive the pun!) in supporting them throughout the pandemic and the loss of contact with loved ones. As our students get to know each other online, they share not only their piano journeys, but also their life stories. In this way, they are making new friends as well as learning a new skill.
As I pointed out earlier, the DecPlay method is particularly well-suited to Senior Citizens – and, indeed, anyone facing physical challenges - due to its simplicity. I honed this method over many years, drawing on many years of formal music tuition and studying various different forms of music. I distilled the most effective techniques into the DecPlay method with a view to making piano accessible to as many people as possible. Most DecPlay students grasp the basic principles within minutes. Here’s why:-
- There’s no need to learn notation (the traditional way in which music is written, and a barrier to learning, for many.)
- The amount of information your brain needs to retain is minimised as you learn basic patterns, rather than following a pre-determined, often complex set of dots on lines.
- The DecPlay method allows flexibility in how the accompaniment is played, and which fingers are used. This makes it much simpler for people with limited hand movement to play.
- By using numbers instead of letters, the distance between piano keys is instantly clearer, making it much easier to follow the instructions on the song sheets.
- Players of all levels play from the same song sheet, meaning that students don’t need to access multiple versions of the same song as they progress.
So, there you have it! Write yourself a prescription for a course of DecPlay and experience the physical and mental health benefits the piano can bring, as well as learning a new skill.
What have you got to lose….?
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