What Are the Cognitive Benefits of Learning to Play a New Musical Instrument After Retirement?

As you forge ahead into the golden years of retirement, you’re likely on the lookout for new hobbies and pursuits to fill your time. You may have enjoyed a lot of travel during your working life, but now you’re ready for something different, something fulfilling and beneficial, both for pleasure and your cognitive health. We have a suggestion for you: learning a musical instrument.

The benefits of juveniles learning musical instruments are well-documented. But what about adults? Particularly those who are past their ‘prime’ years? Turns out, that according to a multitude of studies available on PubMed, Google Scholar, and other reputable sources, the cognitive benefits of learning to play a new musical instrument after retirement are significant. In this article, we delve deeper into these benefits, citing professional studies and expert opinions along the way, and give you more reasons to take up that guitar or piano you’ve always dreamt of playing.

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Boosting Brain Health and Memory

The first thing that you’ll be pleased to know is that engaging in musical training has been proven to boost brain health and memory. The AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) has recommended this time and again, based on numerous studies.

A study published on PubMed found that music training could lead to changes in the brain’s structure and function, directly impacting cognitive abilities. The study found that learning a musical instrument improves the connectivity between brain regions and leads to an overall better functioning brain.

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Music training boosts memory, too. Learning to play an instrument involves remembering different notes, chords, and rhythms. Over time, this repeated memory exercise strengthens the brain’s ability to remember, thus improving memory function.

Improving Cognitive Skills

Learning to play a musical instrument is no easy feat. It requires patience, time, and effort. But it’s worth the effort because it significantly improves your cognitive skills.

According to a study cited by Google Scholar, seniors who took up playing a musical instrument showed improved cognitive abilities. These include problem-solving skills, spatial-temporal skills, and fine motor skills. These improvements were not just limited to music-related tasks but extended to other daily activities as well.

There’s more to it. The study also found that playing music helps in reducing the risk of developing cognitive impairment and dementia. So, if you’ve been worried about these, learning a new instrument might be the preventive measure you need.

Enhancing Emotional Health

The benefits of music are not just limited to cognitive aspects. One of the most significant advantages of learning a musical instrument is the positive impact it has on your emotional health.

Music has the power to move us, to stir our deepest emotions. When you’re playing an instrument, you’re not just creating music – you’re expressing yourself. This process of self-expression is therapeutic and contributes to improved emotional health.

Moreover, according to a PubMed study, seniors who engage in music have lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression. These benefits make a compelling case for picking up that instrument you’ve been eyeing.

Encouraging Social Interaction

Retirement often comes with a significant change in your social life. With more free time on your hands, you have the opportunity to meet new people and build new relationships. And guess what? Music can be a great facilitator of social interaction.

Joining a music class or group gives you a chance to interact with like-minded individuals. You learn together, make mistakes together, and improve together. This shared experience can lead to lasting friendships and a strong sense of community.

Not to mention, playing an instrument can also be a great conversation starter. After all, it’s not every day you meet someone who decided to learn the violin or the harmonica after retirement.

Promoting Lifelong Learning

The final benefit we’ll be discussing is the promotion of lifelong learning. Retirement doesn’t have to mean the end of your learning journey. On the contrary, it’s the perfect time to continue learning, to take up new challenges, and to keep your mind sharp.

Learning to play a musical instrument is a great way to embody the spirit of lifelong learning. It’s a complex skill that requires regular practice and dedication. It’s a journey with no end, as there’s always something new to learn – a new piece, a new technique, a new style.

Moreover, the discipline and patience that you develop while learning an instrument can be applied to other areas of your life, leading to overall personal growth. Thus, learning to play an instrument doesn’t just enrich your life with music, it also contributes to your personal and cognitive development in a multitude of ways.

Fostering Creativity and Brain Plasticity

As we dive deeper into the world of music and its impact on retired adults, it’s impossible not to mention creativity and brain plasticity. Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. When you learn a musical instrument, you’re essentially exercising your brain and boosting its plasticity.

According to an article published in PubMed, older adults engaging in musical training showed enhanced brain plasticity. This means that their brains became more adaptable, more flexible and therefore, more efficient.

Learning a musical instrument fosters creativity, too. You’re not just playing notes from a sheet of music. You’re creating a unique piece of art every time you play. This act of creation stimulates the creative centers of your brain, keeping them active and sharp. Consequently, it boosts your overall creative thinking and problem-solving abilities.

The beauty of music is that it can be as simple or as complex as you want it to be. You could choose to stick to simpler pieces or challenge yourself with more complex compositions. Either way, you’re staying sharp, fostering creativity and enhancing your brain plasticity.

Preventing Cognitive Decline

One of the most profound benefits of learning a musical instrument after retirement is its potential to prevent cognitive decline. Cognitive decline refers to the gradual loss of cognitive functions, including remembering, thinking, and reasoning. It’s a common concern among older adults and can significantly impact their quality of life.

A study accessible on Google Scholar indicates that musical training might be an effective way to counter this decline. According to the study, older adults who regularly play a musical instrument showed slower rates of cognitive decline compared to those who don’t. The reason for this is simple: playing music is a form of cognitive exercise that keeps the brain active and healthy.

The benefits don’t stop there. The same study also found that playing music can help mitigate symptoms of cognitive impairment. This includes conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Therefore, by taking up a musical instrument, you’re not just staying sharp – you’re actively fighting against cognitive decline and impairment.


In conclusion, it’s clear that learning to play a musical instrument after retirement offers a myriad of cognitive benefits. From boosting brain health and memory to improving cognitive skills and emotional health, the benefits are diverse and significant. More so, playing a musical instrument fosters creativity, enhances brain plasticity, encourages social interaction, promotes lifelong learning, and helps in preventing cognitive decline.

So, if you’re looking for a fulfilling hobby that offers more than just passing time, consider learning a musical instrument. Not only will it fill your days with melody and joy, but it will also help you maintain a sharp and active mind. Remember, it’s never too late to start this musical journey, and the cognitive benefits you stand to gain are well worth the effort.