There is a well-documented connection between music and a person’s mood that goes way beyond the realms of simple entertainment.
Whether it’s the haunting wail of a seasoned blues guitarist evoking a lifetime worth of heartbreak, or the uptempo sing-song appeal of an iconic pop-music single, there will always be a particular style or song that strikes a chord within all of us that has the ability to change the way that we feel – and the elderly are no different.
Elderly Australians like to be entertained just as much as every other age group in the country, and when you take into account the prevalence of depression and social isolation that many older people currently experience, you begin to realise just how important a role meaningful and engaging entertainment can play in their overall wellbeing.
Australians who were born in the 1920s, ’30s, ’40s and early ’50s, grew up without television, which means that music was the main source of entertainment within their homes, and like most households before the advent of mobile devices and the internet, parents often dictated what was listened to.
And the music of choice for the parents of that era was the symphonic orchestral sounds of a genre simply known as classical music.
Manager of ABC Classic & Jazz, Hugh Robertson, knows all too well the amazing affinity that elderly people have for classical music, and his experiences with both ABC Classic radio and the ABC Classic record label are proof that keeping an elderly audience engaged is relatively simple when you find the right tune.
“For some listeners, this music has been a huge part of their lives for a very long time. It might have been music that their parents listened to, or music from film, or concerts that they have attended – classical music has a tremendous personal resonance as well as an artistic one,” said Hugh.
“I think classical music has the ability to resonate with people of all ages from all across the globe, there are generally no language barriers stopping you from understanding the music and it’s really the grandest and most evocative and extraordinary music that humans have ever created.”
Over 50% of the residents in Australian aged care homes are currently living with dementia which can dramatically impact their memory and overall ability to communicate.
However, music has proven to be so powerful in its ability to evoke an emotional response that it is often used as a therapy tool for elderly people who have been badly affected by a stroke or mental illness.
Music registers within multiple sites in the human brain – activating the auditory, motor, and emotional regions, and there have been numerous instances around the globe of elderly people having extraordinary positive reactions from music.
There have been cases where elderly people who were confined to wheelchairs have actually gotten up and started to dance from the sound of a beloved piece of music, and other instances where people who were thought to be incapable of communication have burst into song upon hearing the sound of a familiar piece of operatic singing.
Hugh Robertson has seen firsthand the emotional impact that classical music has in evoking positive memories for elderly people, and those that do engage with ABC Classic are definitely not shy in voicing their opinions about.
“There used to be a very famous section on our radio breakfast show called ‘Swoon’ which was all about a moment of bliss to stop and think, and the response was so strong that we actually had people nominating music and responding in their tens of thousands,” said Hugh.
“We receive constant feedback on all channels, and we have people contacting us all the time and telling us how much they love what we’re playing and how some of the music that we’re playing reminds them of certain of their life. It’s really a tremendous feeling.”
“People may have extremely personal reasons as to why a particular piece of music speaks to them, and this can be true across all musical genres. People write certain things with a certain intention but once this music gets out into the world it can mean so much more to so many people.”
There are numerous ways for aged care facilities to provide their residents with classical music in Australia that are both efficient and extremely cost-effective, and the lack of a language barrier ensures that the majority of songs can be enjoyed by people from all cultural backgrounds.
The majority of classical music is performed with acoustic instruments which produce a more natural sound that allows songs to exist in an environment without being overpowering, and the creative transitions and variations can take the listener from one melody to the next without ever feeling repetitive or boring.
Music itself encourages interaction between people, and according to Hugh Robertson at ABC Classic, there is never any shortage of debate when it comes to the classical music compilations that hit Australian airwaves.
“This year we asked our audience to vote on the top 100 composers of all time for our Classic 100 countdown which will air on ABC Classic on the 8th and 9th of June, and we ended up with over 120,000 entries – it’s the biggest Classic 100 yet,” said Hugh.
“In this countdown, we have asked the audience to vote for their favourite composers and pieces of music rather than who they feel is the greatest. This makes things extremely subjective and creates a great conversation between members of our audience.”
There are still a number of ways that Australians can either purchase or listen to Australia’s finest classical songs and musical compilations from the country’s most trusted names.
“You can order over the phone or online through our partner Classics Direct, and you can still find our releases in every JB Hi-Fi, every Sanity Music, and book stores all around the country. We are on all digital services as well as Youtube – any way you enjoy music, you can find our recordings.”
“Our record label has been around for 35 years – we release everything from new and modern 21st century Australian composers through to the great European masters like Beethoven and Mozart,” said Hugh. “Classical music has been part of the ABC since the very first broadcast in 1932, and it’s not going anywhere.”
Call (02) 4782 9697 or visit www.ClassicsDirect.com.au to see the full range of ABC Classic CDs available. And as a special exclusive offer, quote code ‘CLASSIC100OFFER’ to receive 20% off all Classic 100 CD releases.