Yes, you read right….Drumming has been shown to be a great activity in promoting wellness. This is one of those statements that tends to raise eyebrows, depending on who I am speaking with. So, I thought I would take an opportunity to discuss some of the wellness benefits of group drumming. To do this, we first have to clarify what we mean when we say “wellness.” For our discussion, wellness will not refer to being without disease or sickness, rather it will be used to describe a state of being. What constitutes wellness has been a hotly debated topic for quite some time with different groups having very different definitions for the term. However, there is growing agreement that wellness is a process in which an individual comes to an understanding of where he is and makes choices that will help him to live a more healthy and fulfilled life regardless of any particular diagnosis he may or may not have. With this idea in mind, we can see that wellness can be a very deep subject.
This subject of wellness can be very important when dealing with the senior population. In many cases, seniors experience more medical issues as they age. With this increase in medical concerns, the ideal of individuals being engaged and actively choosing activities that will help them to live more healthful and fulfilling lives becomes more and more important. Don’t get me wrong…medical issues should be treated by competent medical professionals, however, the level of satisfaction a person gets from life is something far beyond what medical professionals can address. This can really only be dealt with by the individual. Each of us should continually make choices that will lead us to a more healthy lifestyle. For seniors (and others), this requires us to take into consideration physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well-being. I recently read an article online entitled “10 Ways To Keep Your Mind Sharp” by Beth Howard in the Bangor Daily News (http://bangordailynews.com/2012/02/02/health/10-ways-to-keep-your-mind-sharp). The 10 ways as stated in the article are:
Pump some iron
Seek out new skills
Eat like a Greek
Spice it up
Find your purpose
Get a (social) life
Reduce your risks
Check vitamin deficiencies
Now, no one activity or program can cover all the items listed above. However, group drumming can be a positive catalyst for wellness in multiple ways. Let’s look at a few of the points from the above mentioned article and see how drumming can help.
#1 Get moving and #2 Pump some iron
Exercise…we all know it is good for us and that we should be engaging in some form of exercise regularly. For seniors, this can be even more important. Dementia risk can be reduced by 30 to 40 percent with regular exercise. Regular exercise can also help to reduce the process that leads to memory loss. Group drumming, and the associated movements (including moving feet as many seniors literally dance in their chairs) can provide a vigorous and enjoyable workout for seniors whether they are living at home, in an independent living community, an assisted living facility or rehabilitation center.
#3 Seek out new skills
Constantly challenging ourselves to learn new things is one of the best ways to maintain cognitive function. In fact, it can actually increase the number of brain cells and the connections between them. While group drumming doesn’t require lots of practice to get results, the process of figuring out how to do this new activity will help to develop new skills in many areas. Participants learn the physical motions required to play, they learn new listening skills as the group goes through the process of creating music together and in some cases, they can learn about new cultures and the music that is prominent in those cultures.
#4 Say “Omm”
Chronic stress can be a very big problem for anyone. It can also lead to impaired memory, a big concern for seniors. Research has shown that meditation can reduce stress. While group drumming is not, in and of itself, a meditation program, many programs including the research-based HealthRHYTHMS protocol (http://drummingaround.com/health-wellness-for-seniors) includes meditative aspects that can provide similar benefits.
#8 Get a (social) life
Research has shown that having an active social life with multiple groups of friends can help to lower the risk of dementia. These social groups offer emotional connections and opportunities for increased mental stimulation. With regular group drumming in senior centers and communities, the participants begin to build a new social network. Many times, individuals who are not engaged with other social activities at a community will make it a point to participate in the group drumming. Over time, the connections made and the increase in camaraderie can encourage these individuals to participate in other activities offered. These groups can become safe havens where participants are free to express their concerns and receive support and encouragement from others.
#9 Reduce your risks
Many chronic health conditions like diabetes, hypertension and obesity can be associated with dementia. Finding ways to control or avoid these conditions can help slow cognitive aging and dementia. In several studies, group drumming, again utilizing HealthRHYTHMS has been shown to increase immune system functionality and reduce stress (a major factor in many stress-related conditions).
With the senior population growing, we need to actively seek out new and effective ways of helping them to live lives of wellness. Regardless of an individual’s specific circumstances or medical condition, they all deserve the highest quality of life we can give them. Group drumming is one program that can help in many very specific ways to give them this high quality of life.
For more information about group drumming programs and HealthRHYTHMS, please contact Kevin Cooley at Drumming Around.