Sunday, March 30, 2014


If laughter is the best medicine, music is a close second. In fact, it's number one on my personal list of most effective antidote for depression, stress and illness. Music lifts our spirits and puts a smile on our face. It makes us want to snap our fingers and move our feet. Or just close our eyes and relax.

These senior buskers deserve a listen. You can catch them in Bukit Bintang near Starhill, KL.

Music stirs up beautiful memories of our life experiences, our first dance, our coming of age years listening to Top of the Pops and Hit Parade. No celebration is complete without music.

Best of all, anyone can enjoy music regardless of age. There is such a broad spectrum of music genres we can always find something that appeals to us. My 10-week old grandson falls asleep to soothing baby tunes, and my 87-year old mom, who has Alzheimer's, gets all excited when she recognizes old songs from the pre-War era.

This delightful video above showing the Cowans playing an impromptu duet on the piano at Mayo Clinic went viral when it was first posted on YouTube in 2008. It has garnered almost 10 million views, proof that music resonates with a lot of people, especially when it comes from happy people who enjoy playing music. Well, the couple that makes beautiful music together will stay happy together.

Music can also be a therapy for people with Alzheimer's and dementia. Which brings me to this question - Why are most homes for the elderly so devoid of music? Many of the nursing homes and retirement homes I have visited in Malaysia and Singapore do not give much importance to music as an integral part of their wellness program or incorporate it into their daily activities. Fortunately, the home where my mom is staying encourages music as a fun activity and as therapy.

Members of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra entertains at the Dementia Homecare Centre as part of their Outreach program.
My mom at the centre's daily karaoke sessions attempting to sing oldies in English with the aid of her magnifying glass.

(Above) Don't let their solemn faces fool you. These senior citizens are members of U3A's (Malaysia) gamelan orchestra. U3A stands for University of the Third Age. They enjoy entertaining the audience and are concentrating on making sure they get every note correct.

Learning to play a musical instrument reduces our risks of having dementia when we age. A growing number of studies show that "music lessons in childhood can ... provide benefits for the long run, as we age, in the form of an added defense against memory loss and cognitive decline" (National Geographic article "Your Aging Brain Will Be in Better Shape If You've Taken Music Lessons")

That's comforting news for me. I am currently taking ukulele lessons so I can sing and play my favorite songs, and maybe shuffle my feet while I am at it. It may take me ages to be a competent ukulele player, but I'll get there one day...and in the meantime, hopefully I am keeping Alzheimer's at bay.

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