Researchers at Virginia Tech and Brown University published a study of the musical taste patterns of older adults and the positive role music can play in their care.
Data used in this study came from the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts; respondents were asked about their participation at art events and at musical, dance, and theater productions. The researchers utilized data from this cross-sectional survey from the years 1982, 1992, and 2002. This survey demonstrated that musical tastes tend to narrow during old age. Older adults tended to limit their musical preferences later in life, with the oldest adults being less likely to report diverse consumption patterns of music, despite in earlier years reporting a broader range of consumption. The five most popular forms of music for older adults were big band, country, hymns/gospel, classical/chamber, and mood/easy listening. After age 54, the consumption of newly emerging music dramatically drops off.
The implications of these findings relate to the role that music plays in old age. Most people, older adults included, utilize various forms of cultural capital as a means to decide who they associate with, what groups to join, and what to include in their conversations. The same is true with music. If service providers embed musical programs into their offerings that don’t resonate with older adults, they’ll turn off and look elsewhere for social opportunities. Aging services providers stand to benefit by paying close attention to the musical preferences of their customers.
Source: Harrison, J. Ryan, J. Musical Taste and Aging. Ageing and Society 30: 649-669.