About this Research Topic
Demographic projections estimate that by 2050, the number of people aged 65 and older in the world will soar to 1.5 billion, approximately one third of the total population. Medical and technological advances have certainly contributed to enhanced longevity. However, with advanced age, there is a concomitant elevation in the prevalence of chronic diseases. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the U.S. found that in 2012, 60% of older adults reported at least two of the following conditions: Cancer, heart disease, emphysema or chronic bronchitis, stroke, diabetes mellitus, and Alzheimer’s disease. These diagnoses carry the extensive costs and burdens of serious illnesses, and also mean that family caregivers of loved ones with these conditions experience significant challenges, placing them at extreme risk for a variety of stress-related illnesses and afflictions, and accounting for high rates of morbidity and mortality.
Fortunately, music therapy has been shown to benefit several conditions associated with later life. Not only is music therapy concerned with enhancing quality of life for older adults and families, but it also targets symptoms, psychosocial factors, and side effects of those diseases to which older adults are prone. Burgeoning scientific evidence reveals a variety of applications of music therapy, notably within the systematic reviews in the Cochrane database. Several of these analyses report some impact, but there are also methodological issues that limit generalization of the results. For example, the benefits of music therapy in oncology have included improvements in anxiety, pain, fatigue and quality of life. Music-based interventions for individuals with dementia have been successful in decreasing depression. With individuals who have coronary heart disease, music interventions have been shown to have effects on systolic blood pressure, heart rate, anxiety, pain, sleep and respiratory rate. However, in many of these trials, there was high risk of bias, small samples, or insufficient detail to compare studies properly.
Clearly, there are many aspects of music as therapy that have significant value for older adults, but have yet to be defined and tested. The multiple challenges faced by older adults require creative, new approaches. There is a need to better understand when and how music therapy may most effectively address the issues faced in late life worldwide. While promising, much of the literature fails to discriminate between active interventions by a qualified music therapist and music listening alone. Yet there are vast differences between appreciating a music listening experience and being the beneficiary of a clinical music therapy intervention designed for a specific individual problem.
This issue of Frontiers in Medicine: Geriatric Medicine focuses on music therapy practices for older adults, facilitated by a qualified professional. Of greatest interest are examinations of interventions for prevalent clinical conditions, protocols for prevention of caregiver burden and risks, and innovative programming for enhancing quality of late life. Clinicians and researchers with perspectives on music therapy from across the globe are invited to submit articles. Theoretical formulations of underlying mechanisms, well-executed clinical trials, systematic reviews, and descriptive cases are particularly welcome.
Keywords: Music, music therapy, geriatrics, gerontology, dementia
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