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Active Retirees : Active Retirees June-July 2012
Sing a song Tessa Fothergill, Secretary of Bunbury Ladies Probus, was born in Wales and moved to Australia in her late 60s. Arriving on foreign shores where she knew no one but her daughter, music became a way to meet new people. When she first walked into the local hall to meet the local choir group she was immediately made welcome. “Within minutes I was encircled by people and we began singing,” she says. “It was lovely!” More recently, her singing connections have led to a unique opportunity: playing the drums. “Learning to play the timpani drum – the big, booming one you hear behind the orchestra – has been an absolute joy,” she says. Tessa has also organised a recorder group. “The instrument with a bad reputation, that no one wants to listen to, obviously improves your breathing and your coordination, but that is not the main reason we do it. We do it for the sense of community – five people get together each week and get to know each other very well. It is uplifting.” Tessa is active participating in and organising local music groups because of the emotional benefit to her and her fellow Bunburians: “If you are involved in lovely music – singing, playing, or listening – you are uplifted. The music does that for you. You have to feel happy.” T apping your foot to your favourite Benny Goodman track, humming along to Handel, or watching the local jazz group, you may be doing more for your health than you realise. While scientists remain puzzled at why music helps in medical procedures, the secret to music’s positive influence on wellbeing might actually be that it allows us to choose what we play and who with. Doctor doctor Anecdotal evidence suggests that music improves the experience of people undergoing medical treatment. But scientists have struggled to prove why music complements medicine so well. In 2009, Time magazine reported on a change in the treatment of people with Parkinson’s Disease at the Cleveland Clinic. Patients now listen to their favourite music while they undergo brain surgery. Early indications are that music slows electrical impulses deep within the brain during the surgery, significantly lessening anxiety and distress during surgery. As medicos search for ways to combat the nation’s most serious medical conditions, such findings are becoming increasingly important. With cardiovascular disease the leading cause of death in Australia and new research suggesting that music may improve heart health, music may be key to improving the nation’s health. Harvard University’s Heart Newsletter has reviewed numerous studies suggesting that music treatment can improve blood pressure, heart rate and blood flow, and lessen anxiety and distress – crucial in preventing and treating cardiovascular disease. While the research provides hope, there is doubt in the scientific community. Results are difficult to replicate and several trials actually suggest that music has little or no influence on recovery. Frustratingly, according to the conclusions of the Harvard University study, this uncertainty might be unavoidable. “Contradictory results shouldn’t really be a surprise. One of the biggest hurdles to studying the effects of music on the heart is music itself. It isn’t a single, repeatable ‘therapy’.” Music and sounds that one patient finds soothing could easily be to another “like fingernails on a blackboard”. To put the scientific dilemma another way, allowing patients to choose their own music is essential if the potential benefits of music in medical treatment are to be harnessed, but differing tastes in music prevent scientific proof of the benefits. Weird science Founder of Music Health Australia neurological effects of music, but she » Learning to play the timpani drum – the big, booming one you hear behind the orchestra – has been an absolute joy in my later years. sing out strong Active RetireesTM | 29
Active Retirees April-May 2012
Active Retirees Aug-Sept 2012