Learning to Make Music in Older Adulthood: A Mixed-methods Exploration of Impacts on Wellbeing


Psychology of Music




Building on burgeoning research in the field of arts and health, this article explores the role that learning musical instruments can play in enhancing wellbeing in older adulthood. Despite an increasing focus on the role of learning in supporting mental wellbeing, there is strikingly little research that examines this in relation to music, or that explores wellbeing as a subjective phenomenon captured through mixed-methods enquiry. This research addresses this gap through two inter-related studies. Study 1 adopts questionnaire measures of wellbeing with 98 music-learning and comparison participants, concluding that learning in older adulthood offers significant wellbeing benefits, with music particularly enhancing some health-promoting behaviours. To explore in more detail what learning music means to older adults, Study 2 adopts qualitative methods with a sub-group of 21 music-learning participants, concluding that learning music can enhance subjective wellbeing through six mechanisms: (1) subjective experiences of pleasure; (2) enhanced social interactions; (3) musically-nuanced engagement in day-to-day life; (4) fulfilment of musical ambition; (5) ability to make music; and (6) self-satisfaction through musical progress. Drawing the two studies together, the article concludes by arguing for further research to contribute to the growing body of evidence placing music learning at the centre of healthy ageing agendas. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2021 APA, all rights reserved)

Music and Health Institute Terms

Elderly; Engagement Level; Mental Health; Playing an Instrument; Questionnaires; Recreative Music Methods; Wellness and Well-Being

Indexed Terms

health promotion; aging; older adulthood; well-being; music learning; Adult Learning; Learning; Musical Instruments; Well Being; Music Education

Study Type

Mixed Methods

Document Type