Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

We all know that electrifying jolt of excitement and joy that rushes through us when we hear our favorite song. We just feel it. Music helps us feel connected to ourselves and to others. Listening to music is a great way to share time with the people we care about, especially our older friends and relatives.

Benefits of Music for the Elderly

Not only can music improve the quality of our lives by helping us connect to other people, inducing all the health boosts of social connection, it also has other positive effects on our health that are increasingly beneficial as we age ( Here are a few of those benefits (

  • Reduce stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Uplift mood
  • Reduce chronic pain
  • Reduce confusion and memory loss
  • Stimulate mental activity
  • Stimulate social behavior
  • Improve breathing
  • Stabilize heart rate
  • Reduce blood pressure

Many studies show positive effects of music on older adults, particularly those living with Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Music can be used to bring ease and comfort, as well as help the brain access memories (

How do Seniors Listen to Music?

Elderly Woman Listening to Music

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels

There are many ways to listen to music these days.

Nostalgic Devices/Players

Some older adults might find it nostalgic and comforting to listen to music the way they have in the past. This can be done on devices such as tape players, record players, CD players, or even the radio (though this last option can be a hit or miss depending on the availability of radio stations and the music they play). These players and discs/records also make great gifts for elderly relatives and friends.

MP3 Players

Mp3 players are another great option that allows the listener more control over the content. There are models available that are specifically designed to be easy to use for older adults, featuring intuitive menus and large buttons (

Streaming App

The hands down easiest, or should we say, the hands off easiest, way to listen to music is to use a voice activated home speaker device, such as Alexa. With music streaming apps such as Apple, Itunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Youtube, there are so many ways to listen to the music we want to hear ( Learn more about these devices in our blog covering the top devices for seniors.

So, What Kind of Music do 80 Year Olds Like?

To maximize the positive effects of music for our friends and loved ones, it is important to pick music that will connect with them, and their memories, by picking music that they love and are familiar with, which will stimulate memory and awareness. Here are some popular choices:

Pop Oldies

Pop oldies refer to music that was around from the 1950s to the 1980s. This includes the genres of pop, rock and roll, doo-wop, and surf music. Here are some popular songs from this category (

  • “Don’t Be Cruel”, Elvis Presley
  • “The Purple People Eater”, Sheb Wooley
  • “The Yellow Rose Of Texas”, Mitch Miller
  • “Learnin’ The Blues”, Frank Sinatra
  • “The Wayward Wind”, Gogi Grant
  • “Rock Around The Clock”, Bill Haley & His Comets
  • “Tossin’ and Turnin”, Bobby Lewis
  • “It’s Now or Never”, Elvis Presley With the Jordanaires
  • “Sherry”, The Four Seasons
  • “People Got To Be Free”, The Rascals
  • “Sugar, Sugar”, The Archies
  • “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”, Four Tops
  • “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”, The Rolling Stones
  • “Light My Fire”, The Doors
  • “You Can’t Hurry Love”, The Supremes

Big Band

A big band is a type of musical ensemble of jazz music that usually consists of ten or more musicians with four sections: saxophones, trumpets, trombones, and a rhythm section.” The genre was meant to dance to, so many people who grew up listening to this genre will have fond memories of dancing with friends and loved ones. Some of the most popular big band songs include:

  • “Take The A Train”, The Duke Ellington Orchestra
  • “Tangerine”, The Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra
  • “Pennsylvania 6-5000”, The Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • “Habanera”, The Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • “Woodchopper’s Ball”, The Woody Herman Orchestra
  • “Sing, Sing, Sing”, The Benny Goodman Orchestra
  • “Sentimental Journey”, The Les Brown Orchestra
  • “Dancing In The Dark”, The Artie Shaw Orchestra
  • “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”, Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
  • “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”, The Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • “April In Paris”, The Count Basie Orchestra
  • “Lady Be Good”, The Count Basie Orchestra
  • “Sunrise Serenade”, The Glenn Miller Orchestra
  • “Green Eyes”, The Tommy Dorsey Orchestra
  • “Poor Butterfly”, The Benny Goodman Orchestra


Sheet Music and Piano

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Classical music is a conventional western music style that is often serious and seen as more sophisticated. Here are some popular pieces:

  • “Eine kleine Nachtmusik”, Mozart
  • “Für Elise”, Beethoven
  • “’O mio babbino caro’ from Gianni Schicchi”, Puccini
  • “Toccata and Fugue in D minor”, J.S. Bach
  • “Symphony No.5 in C minor”, Beethoven
  • “The Four Seasons”, Vivaldi
  • “Carmen”, Bizet
  • “The Blue Danube”, Johann Strauss II
  • “Boléro”, Ravel
  • “Flower Duet’ from Lakmé”, Delibes
  • “In the Hall of the Mountain King’ from Peer Gynt Suite”, Grieg
  • “Overture from The Marriage of Figaro”, Mozart
  • “’Nessun Dorma’ from Turandot”, Puccini
  • “Dance of the Knights’ from Romeo and Juliet”, Prokofiev
  • “Overture from ‘William Tell”, Rossini


Classic Country

This refers to country hits from the 1950s-1980s. Here are some popular choices:

  • “Your Cheatin’ Heart”, Hank Williams Sr.
  • “Hey, Good Lookin’”, Hank Williams
  • “Don’t Fence Me In”, Roy Rogers
  • “Pistol Packing Mama”, Al Dexter
  • “Home on the Range”, Roy Rogers
  • “King of the Road”, Roger Miller
  • “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time”, Lefty Frizzell
  • “Coal Miner’s Daughter”, Loretta Lynn
  • “Walkin After Midnight, Patsy Cline
  • “Mama Tried”, Merle Haggard
  • “I Walk the Line”, Johnny Cash
  • “Mammas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys”, Waylon Jennings
  • “Hello Darlin’”, Conway Twitty
  • “He Stopped Loving Her Today”, George Jones
  • “Stand By Your Man”, Tammy Wynette

This list of course is not exhaustive and every person is different and will have different memories connected to their favorite song. The best way to make sure you are picking the favorite songs of your audience is to ask. In any case, even if you do not know which songs specifically to play, knowing the genre to play can get you in the ballpark.


Suncrest Senior Living


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This information was provided by Suncrest Senior Living. Suncrest offers memory care and assisted living care with several home-based locations in Southeast Michigan.

Interested in learning more about Suncrest Senior Living? Contact Suncrest online, or call at (248) 207-5378.

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PHONE: (248) 207-5378