We know that all living things respond to music. Plants will lean towards or away from music based on the nature of the soundwaves generated. There is innate communication in music. Music speaks to both the conscious and the unconscious simultaneously, and its mathematical structure can have an organizing effect on listeners physiologically. A beloved friend of mine is currently recovering from a stroke that robbed them of their speech. Their hospital treatment involves exposure to vocal music to help their brain remember how to speak. I have included articles about this at the bottom of this post.
As a woman in my 40s, I have many elders in my orbit who are concerned about their long-term memory retention. There are many things we can do to support our brains through the years, from diet, exercise, learning new things, incorporating sequenced movements into our routines (like dance), to listening to music.
I will add that those who really want to give their whole brain a workout, can sing and/or learn an instrument, play with others, and improvise. That is a brain triathlon. It is the one exercise that activates the entire brain.
For more on improvisation and brain health, here is a very short comprehensive video explanation. Ted-Ed How playing an instrument benefits the brain. An additional note: live music is different than recorded music. To be in the presence of a live event has a different feel and is a focused experience rather than a peripheral or background experience. Live music is also fun, and the brain loves fun! Fun offers stress relief, and stress is an enemy of optimal health at every age. My understanding as a musician and curious learner, who is not a doctor, is that one of the best things any of us can do for ourselves and for our loved ones is to gather and go out to live music, to be fully present with music, and if possible, to make music together.
Here's to all of our collective good health! Additional reading: Book: Waking the Spirt, a musician's journey healing body mind, and soul. By my friend Andrew Schulman (who played guitar at my wedding more than two decades ago) ANDREW SCHULMAN is the Medical Musician/Critical Care at Berkshire Medical Center and the first Certified Medical Musician admitted as a member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine. More on Andrew's work: https://medicalmusicianinitiative.org/icu-music-study Read about this research and treatment for regaining speech after a stroke here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/acn3.51217
More from The University of Central Florida: https://www.ucf.edu/pegasus/your-brain-on-music/
Video: Presented by the Kennedy Center (1:07:39)
More on Music Therapy in hospitals: