Can Seniors Learn to Play the Piano? Important Facts


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Learning to play the piano is one of those things you think if you didn’t do as a child, it’s too late to do so in your senior years. However, as you’ll see, you shouldn’t let advancing years put you off learning.

Seniors can learn to play the piano. An important fact supporting this is that the brain has the capacity to learn new skills even in later years. Even reduced dexterity or cognition don’t preclude learning. In fact, learning piano can improve seniors’ manual dexterity and cognitive function. 

So, as with many things in life, it’s never too late to learn to play the piano. If it’s something you’ve always wanted to do, this article will be of interest to you. Below, you’ll find the important facts confirming that seniors can learn to play the piano and the benefits of doing so.

It Is Never Too Late to Learn to Play the Piano

 

Can Seniors Learn to Play the Piano? Important Facts

 

As with learning in general, the answer to this question is a resounding no. It’ll never be too late to learn to play the piano.

In fact, once you hit your senior years, it can be an ideal time for learning new skills, especially those that require time to practice. Learning the piano is one such skill.

After all, once you’re older, you’re free of work and family-rearing commitments, so you’ve got a lot more free time on your hands. Learning to play the piano in your senior years is an excellent way to make productive use of that time.

If you start taking piano lessons as a senior, it’s because you’ve made a choice to do so. So, you’re likely to be more motivated to learn than, say, a child who’s forced into lessons. That motivation will make you more focused.

Of course, you may feel like your capacity to learn something new or complex is limited by age. Indeed, there are age-related changes in your brain that may slow some brain activity. Yet, at the same time, other brain functions improve with age.

Most importantly, studies show that your brain retains the ability to adapt and learn new skills even into old age. This is known in the scientific field as neuroplasticity

Studies have shown that although it may diminish with age, it isn’t lost altogether. Indeed, your capacity to learn can be helped by challenging your brain.

As Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young.”

So, maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but the science shows that the old idiom clearly doesn’t apply to humans.

Lower Cognition Can’t Prevent Seniors From Learning Piano

So, you’ve learned that even as a senior, your brain is capable of learning new things. 

Perhaps you’ve noticed that your speed of thought has slowed with age, or maybe you find it hard to concentrate or express yourself. So, you might wonder if this will prevent you from learning to play the piano.

This cognitive decline results partly from aging but can also be down to lack of use.

As you age, you’re probably less involved in activities that work your brain in the same way as in your earlier years. It’s thought that this reduction in brain-challenging activity may account, at least in part, for reduced brain-power.

However, it’s not a bar to learning to play the piano. In fact, there’s evidence that you can delay or reverse this cognitive decline. Participating in a challenging and multi-modal activity like learning the piano is one way you can do this.

This was shown in a study from 2006. It found that individualized piano instruction improved age-related cognitive decline. 

In fact, a 2013 study concluded that even a single session could have a positive effect on cognitive function. The study only involved one participant, so the result may have been specific to them. 

Furthermore, a 2013 Spanish study found that while you’re learning to play the piano, your brain creates new neural connections. Repetitive practice reinforces and strengthens these connections.

These new neural connections don’t just enable you to learn to play the piano. They stimulate other cognitive functions, such as processing speed and attention. They also helped improve memory and language processing, so your overall cognitive ability can benefit.

This study involved a four-month piano training program. So, even if it takes more than one session, cognitive improvements can occur in a relatively short space of time.

Seniors With Reduced Dexterity Can Learn Piano

It can be mesmerizing to watch an accomplished pianist’s fingers perform complex keyboard movements, often at high speed. It might leave you wondering if a senior with reduced dexterity can do that.

Well, don’t let those finger Olympics put you off. Remember, you don’t need to become a top-class professional pianist. Of course, you can if you want, but it’s not what you have to aim for when learning the piano.

Reduced dexterity is something that you’ll experience as a normal part of aging. It’s due to a combination of age-related factors, including loss of muscle mass and weakened tendons.  

Of course, aging also makes you more susceptible to conditions like arthritis. That’s a condition that can affect finger flexibility.

However, activities that exercise your fingers can counteract the deterioration. What better exercise for your fingers than tickling the ivories? 

It’s a great workout for your fingers. The increased use of the muscles and joints in your hands will help strengthen muscles and tendons. This can improve flexibility and bimanual coordination

While you may struggle due to reduced dexterity to start with, you’ll find that regular practice will bring improvements. 

Indeed, even if your reduced dexterity results from a stroke, learning to play the piano may help restore it. Research from 2014 showed that piano training improved manual dexterity and finger movement in stroke patients. 

So, persevere and don’t let the early frustrations put you off. It may take time, but the evidence suggests that not only is reduced dexterity no barrier to learning to play piano, but you can also improve it by playing.

Other Benefits for Seniors From Learning to Play the Piano

Several other benefits can result from learning to play the piano as a senior. 

For example, learning to play the piano can bring an immense sense of achievement. For most people, that’s something we often mostly get from our work.

So, once you’ve reached your seniors years and retirement, it’s something that can be lacking. Without it, you can feel a bit like a spare part in life.

So, finding new ways to regain that sense of satisfaction you get from a job well done is essential. It plays a significant role in self-esteem and confidence-building.

You might even get to the stage where you want to show off your new-found skills like the seniors in the following video:

 


Learning to play the piano when you’re older can also open doors to increased social interaction. That’s crucial to reducing isolation, which can creep into your life once your work and family-raising days are over.

Whether you choose to learn in private one-to-one sessions or in a group, it doesn’t matter. Either way, you increase your social contact, which can be a great fillip if you’ve previously had little or no social connection.

Many seniors participating in activities like playing the piano see reduced stress and anxiety levels. There’s some evidence that this psychological lift can improve your body’s immune response.

That’s something we can do at any age, but it’s even more important as a senior when you might otherwise be more vulnerable to illness.

Conclusion

Hopefully, the only important fact you’ll take away from this article is that seniors can learn to play the piano. Not only that, you should do so. Your age is no barrier.

It may be more challenging than it would have been if you’d learned at a younger age, but don’t allow that to get in your way. 

There are so many benefits to learning to play the piano—notably improved cognitive function, increased finger dexterity and coordination, and overall well-being. 

Sources

Ruth

Hey there, my name is Ruth, I'm in my late fifties. My life was turned upside down a few years ago as I experienced a burn-out. But I saw it as a sign that something had to change in my life. I'm happy I used this tough experience as a stepping stone. I now feel happier than ever and hope to inspire you to do the same, no matter how old you are.

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