A growing group of elderly people is taking music lessons, either to fulfil a long-cherished dream or to pick up an old passion again. Teaching music lessons to the elderly therefore, is a specialisation which offers opportunities for the professional music teacher. The research group Lifelong Learning in Music & the Arts of the Research Centre Art & Society conducted research during a two-year period into teaching music lessons to people at an advanced age. For this they worked closely together with teachers experienced in teaching the elderly.
On Saturday June 16 the concluding Symposium Music and the Elderly took place in the Puddingfabriek in Groningen, where the research results were presented.
Symposium 16 June 2012, looking back
In a hall packed to the rafters the research project Music and the Elderly was concluded on Saturday 16 June last. Music teachers, students, policy makers in art and culture and other interested people had gathered in De Puddingfabriek in Groningen to listen to the researchers and other renowned speakers. Professor Rineke Smilde welcomed everyone, after which research leader Evert Bisschop Boele gave a brief overview of the project. After that the first speaker was development psychologist Gerrit Breeuwsma of the University of Groningen.
Keynote speech Gerrit Breeuwsma
In his keynote dr. Gerrit Breeuwsma placed the topic of music and the elderly in a life-course perspective and demonstrated that every musical activity you undertake at a later age, is based on experiences with music you had earlier (even if you start learning to play an instrument at an elderly age yourself, you already have quite a few musical experiences in the wider sense of the word). Breeuwsma argued that in this respect learning at a later age differs in a quite few ways from learning at a young age. In this last case learning often is the start of experiences in a certain area (such as the domain of music), while at a later age it has to be connected to all kinds of ‘established’ experiences. The motivation to start learning to play an instrument is also related to those experiences and is therefore per definition intrinsic. In addition to this, Gerrit Breeuwsma talked about the association between music and the elderly and therapy. He used concrete examples to illustrate his arguments.
The workshops given at the symposium were very popular. Visitors were able to choose from three different workshops, all of which were given twice, so everyone could attend at least two of them.
Music making and ageing – an overview
The first workshop, given by professor Heiner Gembris of the University of Paderborn, Germany, was about the psychological and physical aspects of making music and ageing. Professor Gembris presented the outcomes of research into music, ageing and health among amateur musicians, and illustrated this with research he conducted himself. In addition he talked about what getting older means for professional musicians, for which he conducted a substantial research project in which over 2000 musicians participated.
Older people making music – what does it bring them?
Dr. Rosie Perkins of the Royal College of Music in London, talked about the results of the Rhythm for Life research she did at the RCM in London, about the impact learning music can have on older adults (50 and older). In the films she showed, these people were given a voice. Her research made clear that learning to make music makes an important difference for the wellbeing of those involved. For example, they experience a greater sense of pleasure, their social interactions improve and they feel a greater sense of involvement with day to day life. After Rosie Perkins’ presentation there was a lively discussion about the subject.