Music For The Older

Instruments For Older Adults

There is one common misconception about learning in older age. Most of people think that when we get older, our brain function is not as sharp as before, therefore, makes it hard for older people to adapt new things. And when it comes to instrument lessons, learners are usually advised to start at early age since it is long road to go.

Despite the fact that learning to play instruments is more difficult with time, everyone is encouraged to start any lessons regardless of age, especially elders. As music therapy has proven its healing power in treatment for seniors, therapists strongly recommend music activities including playing and learning musical instruments as a treatment. These learning activities are very good for brain exercises and can enhance elders’ both mental and physical health condition.

Choosing instruments to learn and play is pretty much depended on personal preference. However, if your seniors still hesitate or you want to provide options for them, there are five instruments standing out.



Ukulele is one of the best options for learning instrument in any age. It is inexpensive to buy and very easy to play. The instrument only has 4 strings instead of 6 strings like guitar which made of nylon material. Elders can start with some simple chords and are able to play along some songs after few weeks of learning. The instrument has uplifting sound combination and different strumming patterns that can brighten seniors’ mood as well as catch attention of the crowds in any events and gatherings.

Another good characteristic is the small size of ukulele. You don’t have to worry that seniors could be tired after learning or playing and ukulele is extremely mobile. Seniors can carry it around and perform which give them a lot of chances to express themselves and be confident. The ukulele models are not expensive as well, you can find your seniors a ukulele with reasonable price anywhere in instrument stores.



If your seniors are dance lovers and interested on fast cheerful rhythms, bongos can be an ideal recommendation. Bongos is a set of two conjoined drums originating in Cuba which can provide similar sound effect of full drum kit. You can spot Bongos in Latin bands, salsa or tango music.

The instruction of playing is very easy. Seniors will use their bare hands to make drum beat which provide satisfying percussive experience. Since bongos requires physical interaction with the drums, not only seniors learn about rhythm and beat but it also stimulates body movement but not too extreme that can wear seniors out after the lessons. Just with simple beat, seniors can follow the tune and play along with songs after one or two lessons. The drums also create appropriate sound, not too loud to disturb neighbor but big enough to excite everybody to join and dance. The learning methods are widely available too with many teaching videos uploaded on Internet for seniors to learn and practice at home.



Just like bongos, xylophone is another easy-to-learn instrument for seniors. The instrument is a wooden bars placed on a wood frame. Players will hold a designed wooden stick and strike on bars to create specific note. The great advantage of xylophone for seniors is that it makes very beautiful music with high elegant notes that give players spectacular experience than any other instruments. The wonderful sound of xylophone has strong healing power as it can ease your mind, elevate good energy, and recall joy and happiness. Seniors with depression and bad mood are encouraged to play and learn instruments like xylophone for psychology benefits. However, the instrument require certain skill level and may cost a little for quality one. But it can be built at home for saving money as well.


Glokenspiel is similar to Xylophone, the only difference is the wooden bars in xylophone are replaced by mental bars in Glokenspiel (pronounced “glock-ench-peel”). The mental bars thus produce brighter and cheery sound rather than wooden bars of xylophone. The cheerful sound of Glokenspiel can contribute to seniors’ emotion or be useful in music therapy. Moreover, since many elementary schools include this instrument in their music courses for its simple playing instruction, playing Glokenspiel can remind childhood memories and arouse brain activities. In other hand, Glokenspiel can be a bridge connect elders with their inner child and awake their positive emotion. For dementia patients who suffer from memory lost and cognitive function, playing instruments like glockenspiel and xylophone can be included in treatment process, recall unconscious feeling and enhance good mood.


Harmonica, also known as “Blues Harp” is very popular musical instrument and is possibly well-known in your seniors’ time as well. The instrument can demonstrate many music genres such as blues, jazz, folk, country or even rock. Harmonica is very easy to play and can be emotional rewarding just after few lessons. The portable figure can be the greatest strength of harmonica since seniors can put the instrument in their pocket and carry it around to practice anytime anywhere. The low cost is also one of harmonica pros. For harmonica, seniors don’t have to know a lot of musical knowledge to understand the instructions and the instrument magic can make any sound players make “in key”, like they said “it’s hard to sound bad on harmonica”.

Despite the good aspects of harmonica in music lessons for adults, there are still some drawbacks needed to considerate. As harmonica is an air instrument, it requires properly technical instructions in breathing, how to blow, inhale and exhale technique. This requirement can be physical burden for elders who do not have strong respiratory systems. So if your seniors have issues with breathing, harmonica is not highly recommended.

Although the list above is about easy-to-learn instruments for seniors, please remember they are just suggestion. It’s all up to elders’ music preference and choice. If they are willing to learn and play and if the learning process or the instruments bring your seniors’ joy and happiness, then there is no limit at all!

Blanca (Author)