Music for life

Promoting social engagement and wellbeing in older people through community supported participation in musical activities.

Project overview

This research explored the role of music in older people’s lives and how participation in making music, particularly in community settings can enhance their social, emotional and cognitive well-being.

It focussed on the reciprocal processes by which personal attributes of participants in music making interact with contextual factors to impact upon the benefits that older people derive from music-making.

The research comprised of three case studies, which each offered a variety of musical activities to older people:

  1. the Sage, Gateshead

  2. the Connect Programme of the Guildhall School of Music

  3. Westminster Adult Education Service,

In each case study, a large sample of older people (up to 500) some of whom have recently begun musical activities (novices), others who are more experienced were recruited to complete questionnaires and psychological needs scales related to autonomy, competence and relatedness before and after a substantial period of active engagement with music.

Data collection was also included in depth interviews with a representative sample of participants, observations of musical activities and focus group interviews following the observations, and interviews with the musicians facilitating or teaching the activities.


Key findings:

  • Measures of well being were consistently higher amongst the music participants (n=398) than amongst the comparison group (n=102).

  • There was some positive change over time on quality of life measures, for those involved in musical activities.

  • Participants reported social, cognitive, emotional and health benefits of participation in music.

  • Some barriers to participation were identified, relating to access to information, structural, dispositional and social issues.

  • Facilitators of musical activities with older people had specific training needs but few opportunities for CPD.

  • Facilitators played a key role in fostering positive outcomes.

Music for Life (PDF, 1.2MB)

View all project findings.


Music for Life newsletter June 2010 (PDF, 538KB)

Further information

For more information, read the full project details.