I recently came across reference to another study recently done on musicians that suggests continuing musical activity into old age can have mental health benefits.
While it is known that practicing music repeatedly changes the organization of the brain, it is not clear if these changes can correlate musical abilities with non-musical abilities. The study of 70 older participants, with different musical experience over their lifetimes, provides a connection between musical activity and mental balance in old age. “The results of this preliminary study revealed that participants with at least 10 years of musical experience (high activity musicians) had better performance in nonverbal memory, naming, and executive processes in advanced age relative to non-musicians.”
It’s interesting, but keep in mind that this is just preliminary research and uses a rather small sample population. I wouldn’t be surprised if similar correlations could be found among elderly people who actively play bridge, do crossword puzzles, or any activity that involves mental effort. It might not be the musical activity in and of itself that kept the mind sharper, but simply the mental activity involved.
As scientists follow this study up it may turn out to be mostly hype, like the infamous “Mozart Effect” that had gullible parents convinced that playing classical music for infants would give their children a leg up in school. Still, it’s neat to see more research done on music’s effects on the brain and this one seems legitimately conducted.