A recent performance on the streets of Cobourg, Ontario, has captured the attention of many on the Internet. No, it wasn't a surprise concert by a pop star or classical virtuoso - it was an impromptu concert from local senior Michael McNamara.
McNamara had been biking downtown every day to use the piano, which was installed as part of the Keys To Our Town program, QMI Agency reported. The piano featured a vivid image of a fox by Katriona Dean, who was responsible for putting a video of McNamara online, bringing him to the world's attention. Dean heard from a friend about McNamara's daily sessions on the piano when they began drawing large groups of onlookers. She then filmed his performance and posted it online.
Reaching the world
One of the videos, featuring a performance of "Say Something" by The Great Big World became especially popular, garnering more than 1 million views in less than two months. The video also caught the attention of celebrities, including the band that originally performed the song. According to QMI, the band shared the video on its Facebook page with the message, "We love this so much." McNamara told the news service that he had received feedback from all around the world.
"It's all been fun. I haven't seen a downside. It's all so supportive. It's old people and it's young people," McNamara said.
Music and the mind
While the positive attention that McNamara has received since the video appeared could be reward enough on its own, seniors may have even more reason to play musical instruments if they don't already. Research has shown that music therapy could have a major impact on many areas of senior care.
A study from Emory University published in the journal Neuropsychology found that older adults who had played music for at least 10 years over the course of their lives were more resistant to the cognitive effects of aging than those who hadn't spent as much time with an instrument in hand.
A follow-up study published in Frontier in Human Neuroscience backed up the results, according to Emory University. Musical experience didn't need to be recent or ongoing to have an effect. However, researchers found the most benefits in people who had started playing music before age 9 and those who continued to play after 60. Seniors who play into late life gained cognitive benefits that researchers said could make up for a lack of earlier education. Since education is thought to be one of the best protectors of cognitive function in old age, according to the study's authors, they said that the research "suggests that musical training should be considered an alternative form of education."
Music therapy is also widely used in areas such as Alzheimer's care. According to the Alzheimer Society of Canada, music can be used throughout the progression of Alzheimer's disease, as even when a person may not be able to play in the late stages, listening to music can still provide a boost to well-being.