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Music Therapy Helps Elderly Remain Fit

Rory Bolton

An increasing number of senior citizen facilities are using music therapy to help the elderly improve their cognitive skills, avoid depression and even stay more physically fit. 

Rory Bolton recently completed graduate studies in music therapy and piano performance at Illinois State University. Throughout his time at ISU, the 28-year-old singer performed at private parties and on cruise ships. For the past several months, Bolton has sung and played old standards and classic pop songs at Twin Cities residences for seniors. 

Bolton used his training in music therapy to gage the effect certain kinds of music have on the elderly.

Bolton said music seems to offer the most benefit when seniors actively participate by singing, dancing or even tapping their toes to the beat.

"Music employs so many different facets and has the ability to activate so many parts of the brain simultaneously, as well as the ability to evoke emotional responses from the listeners and participants," Bolton said. "It really encompasses a wide array of cognitive, social, physical and emotional stimulation."

Bolton performed music ranging from Frank Sinatra tunes to rock classics favored by the aging boomer generation at Evergreen Place, Evergreen Village, Luther Oaks and Blair House. Some of those facilities participate in an ISU practicum program that gives graduate students the chance to lead weekly music therapy session for residents.