Since I teach flute students of all ages I felt it important to point out how practicing the flute can ward of dementia in the later days of life.
It may not cure dementia, but it can definitely help.
Many people across the world are suffering from dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease. Doctors and Researchers are doing their best on trying to find a cure for these diseases. Many of the researchers are figuring out, now, although many musicians have known for years, that music can actually help these diseases! It may not cure it, but it can definitely help.
I’m not sure if Hollywood made the movie “The Notebook” worldwide or not, but one of the main characters is a woman that has one of these diseases. She can’t remember who her husband is, but she can remember how to play beautiful long pieces on the piano. This example is just more renown or popular that, I feel, most people have seen or can see the power of music in-even though it is fictional. They have to get their story and facts from somewhere, right?
Music, while physically playing or listening to, is so good for anyone no matter the age. It’s amazing! It gets more parts of the brain working and therefore, less time for your brain to stop. When you’re constantly exercising something, it works much better for much longer. Have you ever heard that children who play instruments do better in school on tests? Music, especially playing the flute, has helped the memory of children I know significantly because we have to memorize music which takes both the left and right sides of the brain to do.
I was recently giving a lesson to one of my online students who is into the second half of her life. (awesome) She told me one of the main reasons she was learning to play the flute was to keep her mind alert. Perfect!
The flute uses the left and right brain in complex patterns with every single skill. Neuro-pathways are created when learning to play the flute, and with repetitive practice those pathways are permanently ingrained like little ditches through a field. The more often we “run water” through those ditches; aka-practice those skills, then the deeper those ditches become making them totally accessible even in our old age. It sometimes just takes a prompting or two.
Children and adults who have been exposed to music are better at verbal memory versus visual memory. I’ve seen so many benefits to starting children to play music at a younger age than older. There are better opportunities for them younger (which is very good in the long run) and they are smarter and healthier, I believe, than they would be without learning to play an instrument.
Basically, at any age music is one of the keys to keeping a healthy brain. The flute in my opinion is especially awesome because we have to cross our left arm over our body center which sparks left-right brain activity into something like a fireworks show!
The best kind of music for people experiencing either dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, though, are pieces that are familiar and not anything new to them. Imagine being asked what a song was that was brand new on the radio. You wouldn’t know any of the lyrics or tune or anything! It might even freak you out a little bit if someone asked you to tell them who the composer/title was and asked you to sing it. I know that would make me kind of nervous. But if a song came on that you grew up listening to, you’d be able to say who the composer and title of it was and be so excited to start singing it before they even asked you to! I’d imagine this is very similar to what people with dementia or alzheimer’s feel like often.
The power of music is amazing. Who would have known that you can be warding off dementia with flute practice? Knowing what it can do for you makes the reward of listening and playing the flute even greater.