Learning to make music in older adulthood: a mixed-methods exploration of impacts on wellbeing

Rosie Burt-Perkins, Aaron Williamson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


    Building on burgeoning research in the field of arts and health, this article explores the role that learning musical instruments can play in enhancing wellbeing in older adulthood. Despite an increasing focus on the role of learning in supporting mental wellbeing, there is strikingly little research that examines this in relation to music, or that explores wellbeing as a subjective phenomenon captured through mixed-methods enquiry. This research addresses this gap through two inter-related studies. Study 1 adopts questionnaire measures of wellbeing with 98 music-learning and comparison participants, concluding that learning in older adulthood offers significant wellbeing benefits, with music particularly enhancing some health-promoting behaviours. To explore in more detail what learning music means to older adults, Study 2 adopts qualitative methods with a sub-group of 21 music-learning participants, concluding that learning music can enhance subjective wellbeing through six mechanisms: (1) subjective experiences of pleasure; (2) enhanced social interactions; (3) musically-nuanced engagement in day-to-day life; (4) fulfilment of musical ambition; (5) ability to make music; and (6) self-satisfaction through musical progress. Drawing the two studies together, the article concludes by arguing for further research to contribute to the growing body of evidence placing music learning at the centre of healthy ageing agendas.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)550-567
    JournalPsychology of Music
    Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2014


    • music
    • lifelong learning
    • music education
    • health promotion
    • older adults
    • subjective wellbeing
    • mixed methods


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