You’ve heard that saying before—“It’s never too late to start”—and that includes piano playing. Seniors who take up lessons or return to the piano after some years away enjoy particular benefits. In speaking with a piano teacher regarding older students, she cited some interesting results.
For a recent widow, piano lessons gave her a calming effect on her emotions and helped her avoid isolation. Another student suffers from arthritis and finds that, after beginning lessons two years ago, her fingers and mind feel more alive.
This teacher also reports that older pupils bring to the keyboard a persistence that she doesn’t see in any other age group, making them some of her favorite students.
Did you know that 90% of adults who don’t
play the piano admit to wishing they could?
Also, 92% of people who play an instrument
say they were glad they learned to do so.
For people considering a new interest to liven up retirement, learning to play the piano could be an excellent option. In a 1998 study, retirees who participated in group keyboard lessons reported decreased anxiety, decreased depression, and decreased loneliness when compared to a control group (American Music Conference). Also, as reported in a 1996 British Medical Journal, a Swedish study found that people participating in the arts live longer.
Inspiration at the piano the second time around
To escape from the stress of his high-pressure job in the hit movie “Pretty Woman,” Richard Gere’s character spent the evening playing the piano (a song that Gere himself composed). The multi-talented Dudley Moore has been quoted as saying that it was his piano talents that made him popular with girls.
There seems to be a renewed national love affair with the piano, one partly fueled by adults either taking lessons for the first time or returning after a long break, especially since people live longer and have a higher quality of life. A 2006 Gallup Poll, conducted for NAMM (National Association of Music Merchandisers) found that:
- More than one-half of U.S. households (52%) has at least one person, age 5 or older, who currently plays a musical instrument – a sharp contrast compared to the United Kingdom at 37% and Australia* at 36%.
- 40% of U.S. households have two or more musicians.
- More women (51%) play musical instruments than men (49%).
Other findings of the survey from NAMM’s website (http://www.namm.org/news/press-releases/gallup-organization-reveals-findings-american-atti):
- Adults are still quite active in the creation of music, with 42 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 35 to 50 currently playing a musical instrument, up from 35 percent in 1985. As for those 50 and older, 20 percent were still playing an instrument, up from 16 percent in 1985.
- Conversely, the vast majority of those questioned began their musical education prior to entering their teens. In fact, some 64 percent of those questioned began musical training between the ages of 5 to 11, while 18 percent began between the ages 12 to 14.
Those taking up the piano are seeking everything from self-fulfillment to stress reduction. Others have more personal reasons—like the ability to have sing-alongs with the family.
At the base of the trend, though, are adults with a commitment to their lessons. A commitment that wasn’t there as a child. Gone are the temptations for Little League or the peer-pressure fear of being called a “sissy.”
Adults who took childhood lessons find fragments of what they had learned as a child in the recesses of their memory. This knowledge accelerates their progress from those first awkward lessons to a real feeling of achievement. Returning adults advance quickly, realizing what they learned as a child can be retrieved with patience and practice. Some adults laughingly call themselves “re-treads.”
Selecting the right teacher is essential for an adult planning on lessons. A teacher who is great for children isn’t necessarily perfect for adults. Do some research. Many teachers today specialize in teaching adults and some offer group lessons—which are great fun and can add a social dimension.
Getting comfortable playing for the teacher and the family is all many adults can cope with. Recitals are out. But that’s okay—the main reason adults are learning piano is just for fun. They know their goal is not to be a concert pianist—something their parent may have hoped for them as a child. You don’t have to be a professional to enjoy a sport—and that’s also true with adults returning to the piano. Remember, it’s never too late to start!