There is no age limit for playing the guitar or any other musical instrument. Of course as we get older we may have to deal with some more obstacles, but nothing too hard to overcome. If you are one of the lucky members of the older generations, playing guitar and music is great for your physical and mental health!
Adapt to Limitations
Before you can reap the mental health benefits of playing guitar and music you must be able to play and practice. Often older folks have more issues with arthritis and pain in the hands and arms which can hinder being able to learn how to play guitar in the first place. There are a few methods to help ease any potential problems.
- Find a smaller body acoustic or electric guitar that is easier to handle, parlor and junior size guitars will help.
- Play a classical nylon string or a light gauge electric guitar to minimize the pain that is associated with practice.
- Stick to open chords and use a capo to make things easier, playing guitar does not have to be difficult to sound good.
- When you do have issues with pain take a break from playing and focus on music theory or finding new songs to play
Practice Often and Lightly
When you were young and attempting a new physical activity it was always necessary to push past the initial pain. But as we get older this overzealous behavior can lead to problems and injuries. It is important to practice often, but in shorter bursts. This can take a little longer to build muscle memory, but the point here isn’t to become a master shredder or virtuoso, it is simply to enjoy a healthy activity.
Practice whatever guitar lessons that keep you the most focused, don’t worry about a strict routine. If you just like playing songs, that’s fine, or if you prefer to compose your own tunes then spend a little more time on theory. Even if you do play and practice just a little bit of guitar and music a day it will not take long to see the overall health benefits.
The Mental Health Benefits of Playing Guitar
Participating in music and art helps to enhance your creative abilities. Even if you focus mostly on playing just popular songs, this expression is great for expanding your mind. Make sure you play beyond the genres you are accustomed to challenge yourself with new music styles and tunes.
If you really want to nurture your creative side, it is helpful to write your own songs. This can be done in a simple manner by copying other song structures or by going all in on music theory. Either way practicing and evolving with the hobby of music or playing guitar will give you an edge on being creative, clever, and original.
Playing guitar is a physical exercise that can lead to reduced stress, less anxiety, and all the common health benefits of activity. In the beginning it may seem like your motor skills aren’t improving, but with persistence you will eventually see a change in your grip strength and flexibility. Just be sure to not overdo it and go past the point of therapy to injury.
If you ask any guitarist what they do to relax or calm down, the answer is going to be playing music. If you find that guitar practice is not providing you with stress relief then try a different approach. Adjust the methods of practice and the songs you play so that you will receive the maximum therapeutic benefit. Even playing a few guitar chords back and forth can bring relaxation and calmness.
It Helps Your Social Life
People love music and they are especially attracted to those that can play it. You don’t even have to be that great of a guitarist, if you can play a few catchy tunes your guitar playing will help improve your social life. It will be easier to break the ice when meeting new friends as it provides a great way of grabbing the attention of others.
And most of all it will help you find other musicians to play along with! Not only will this help your social life, but you will also learn new techniques and tunes when joining in with others. Knowing how to play an instrument or sing automatically puts you in a community of like-minded artists.
Playing Guitar is a Confidence Booster
Having a better social life and being physically healthier can give your mental health a great boost of confidence. Now this confident feeling is not easy to come by, as you must practice and be able to decently play through some songs. If you can accept the fact that it will take some time to build confidence, that alone will improve your playing.
If you are having trouble getting to that point, again try approaching your guitar playing from a new angle. Perhaps you are playing the wrong genre or guitar, the ability to play music is accessible to everyone, you just need to find the right path to take. Stay optimistic and keep working toward your goal.
It Improves Memory
If you have ever known an elderly person with dementia you will often find that their muscle memory remains intact. Musicians are often known for having their piano or guitar playing skills exist long past their daily and more common memories. We can’t keep everything as we age, that is a fact of life, but music provides us a thread to keep our mental health held together.
You will find that patients with dementia are often in their happiest moods when playing music, so even as our brain undergoes major changes, that aspect of joy remains. There is no magic or pharmaceutical cure that will keep one young forever but playing guitar and music will at least help you remember what it feels like to be happy!
It Gives You Something to Do!
This is the most important mental health aspect of playing guitar and music, it gives you something to do. Whether in their own home or a retirement center elderly people often fall into two groups. Some just sit perpetually in front of the TV waiting for meals, while others stay active and participate more in life. It should be no surprise which group fares better in mental and physical health.
You do not have to have any specific goals when it comes to playing guitar, it is just important to do it. Even if you never advance past a certain level, that is fine, if you are keeping your mind busy. It’s easy to forget about the onward march time and our own mortality when we are occupied with new and creative ideas.
As you age it doesn’t get easier to play music or guitar, but it still benefits your physical and mental health. Take it easy during practice and don’t push yourself beyond your physical limits and you will see mostly positive outcomes. Not only is playing guitar a positive way to fill your time, but it will also help improve your social life, cognition, and general well-being.
About the Author
Shawn Leonhardt is a writer for Guitar Tricks and 30 Day Singer. He has produced songs, written T-shirt slogans, and provided voiceovers. He specializes in teaching songwriting, lyrics, and music theory.