Research Shows We Should Learn Music Later in Life

Research Shows We Should Learn Music Later in Life

An interview with Dr Jennifer MacRitchie from the MARCS Institute for Brain Behaviour and Development at University of Western Sydney was broadcast on ABC 891 on 14 June 2016.

Dr Mc Ritchie said research shows that the brain is plastic all the way through life and so we can learn new things all the time.  This means that it is never too late to pick up a musical instrument. Research is being conducted at the University of Western Sydney on the benefits that older adults can gain from learning to play an instrument, such as the piano, at a later stage in life.

“The important thing for adults is that it doesn’t matter how well you are playing it, it is about learning to have some fun, and it is giving you all these added benefits along the way.

Playing a musical instrument requires a number of skills, and that is why it is very good as a brain work-out. You may have a score in front of you, some instructions that you look at, then your eyes send those signals to your brain which then convert those messages out to your hands and fingers. Sometimes you have to coordinate between different hands and your feet (like strumming on an ukulele where LH plays the chords and RH strums the rhythm).  We are using the sounds that we produce as a feedback to the brain to prepare actions for the next sound and so on. Quite a number of actions are going on at the same time.

Research with stroke patients shows you can regain hand function by playing the piano and doing these sorts of exercises. Playing the piano is an enjoyable task so people are going to do it more often and they are going to get the benefits of that exercise. The auditory feedback (when you press a key and hear the sound) helps people reduce any error in movement they may be making so that they can increase their regularity on those types of tasks.

It is common for people to think that it is easier for a child to learn a new skill and that if you haven’t done it when young you have missed the boat. Children are learning all the time and most will have a go at anything.  However, there are advantages of learning when you are older.  As an adult you have different levels of motivation and you have responsibility for your own learning.  You can do it if you want to.  Also, learning in a group with other adults has great social benefits. It is a way to spend time with other people and get enjoyment from a shared activity.”

Mr MacRitchie said her research is tapping into the idea that playing the piano or any instrument can help with dexterity later in life.  “We want to encourage more people to take up a musical instrument, as much as it will help with other daily activities, it is also something that is fun to do.  So why not take up that activity that you have been sitting thinking about doing for a while?”

Musicians Functional Data

Isn’t it funny in Goolwa when…………

Isn’t it funny in Goolwa when…………



If your outfit involves designer labels, peplums, knife-pleats, lettuce hems, vents or yokes, striped tops with the nautical look well, you are clearly just here for the weekend. In Goolwa it’s thongs, shorts, tracky dacks, old jeans, holey t-shirts, and high vis that are usually seen on the locals. It’s ready to wear, functional and comfortable casual when out and about. There are several Op Shops in Goolwa (e.g. Anglican Church in Crocker St, Bargain Barn behind The Professionals in Cadell St, and Upcycle at the Goolwa Shopping Centre). Op Shops are great places where you can save money, shop ethically, be environmentally friendly, support charities, and for those who don’t like their fashion trends to be dictated, they provide an alternative to the mainstream. One man’s junk is another man’s treasure (though not the best phrase to use when telling your child they were adopted).


cadell street

On public holidays the traffic in Goolwa is like King William Street on a Monday morning, and people seem to think that different road rules apply. It means traffic jams at the roundabout. Perhaps they are using their navigation device and trying to follow the confusing “take the second exit on the left” direction? Traffic would be less chaotic if it was just “drive through the next roundabout”.


empty shelf

With the influx of visitors during the holidays, the supermarket shelves are soon bare and it is as if a plague of locusts has descended. I should tell you about the time my husband volunteered to do the shopping for me. I thankfully handed over my carefully prepared list. He came back with 1 packet of sugar, 2 dozen eggs, 3 jars of vegemite, 4 loaves of bread, 5 containers of laundry detergent, 6 lettuces, 7 tomatoes and 8 tins of baked beans (one of his favourite foods) It’s ok, he said, they were on special.


kayak on fire

The river is a great place for a kayak adventure. Great for keeping fit, getting up close and personal with the wildlife, fishing, checking out the scenery. It can get a little cold in the winter months though. Reminds me of the two holiday makers who went out for a fishing expedition in their fishing kayak. They were getting cold so they decided to light a fire in their boat. Of course, it promptly sank, proving once again that you can’t have your kayak and heat it too.



No-one would disagree that the stars at night in Goolwa are amazing compared to Adelaide where the reflected city lights, or light pollution, dominates the sky. The Milky Way is amazing, and Orion (The Saucepan) is spectacular. I could tell you something funny about it, but it would be a waste of space.


fur seal nz

There has been a lot of press recently about the New Zealand fur seals. It is estimated that seals numbers have returned to levels similar to before they were hunted by the early white settlers. They are a major issue for the local fishing industry who lose a significant proportion of their catch, their livelihood, to the seals.
Q: What did the seal say when it swam into the barrage wall?
A: “Dam!

goolwa barrage

Benefits of living on the coast:

Benefits of living on the coast:

  1. Abundant recreational activities: Staying active is good for physical and mental health.  If you live by the coast you will have easy access to enjoy activities like sunbathing, surfing, swimming, sailing, fishing, cockling, kayaking, walking, horse-riding, walking the dog.  Improve your health and manage your weight over the years.
  2. Meet new friends: Pursuing outdoor recreational activities means you spend more time out of the house enjoying life and therefore are more likely to meet people who share the same interests.
  3. A good night’s sleep: Coastal air is different than that found inland. The air along the coast is charged with negative ions that allow the body to absorb oxygen more easily which means that serotonin levels are more equalized.  This can improve your mood and decrease your stress level.  It can also help you to sleep more deeply and peacefully at night, and benefit your overall health and well-being.
  4. Sunshine: Our bodies depend on the sun to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is responsible for improving the immune system, making bones strong and fighting off autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and MS.   When we’re on the beach, the heat of the sun affects our endocrine system which is the part of our body which secretes endorphins.  Endorphins are the natural chemicals in our body designed to make us feel relaxed and less stressed.  Regular exposure to the sun in moderation can reduce inflammation that is common in skin conditions like dermatitis and psoriasis.  Avoid spending too much time in the sun and always use sunscreen.
  5. Food: When you live by the coast you can enjoy fresh seafood at a restaurant or in your own home. Fresh fish tastes better and is full of healthy nutrients such as Omega 3. Support the local fisher folk by purchasing locally caught fish.
  6. Swimming in sea water: Salt water helps to heal wounds as the salt water cleans the wound and helps it heal faster.  Sea water removes toxins from the skin and replenishes it with minerals.  Sea water can help with flu symptoms like runny nose and help clear up acne and lessen acne scars.
  7. The sand on the beach and in the sea act as a natural exfoliator. While you are standing in the water wiggle move your feet and feel the sand between your toes.
  8. Social status: Many people subconsciously equate success with those who own or rent coastal real estate. In many areas of your life you may have to work hard to gain a certain social status and exhibit an aura of being successful.
  9. The family will love it: Whether your kids still live at home or have already flown the coop, your family will love the idea of living on the coast.  Older kids who are already grown will love the fact that visiting their parents also means enjoying easy access to beach activities.
  10. Boating: The more time you spend on the water the more relaxed and tranquil you become, strengthening your mind and body. Boating is one of the few known activities that has been proven to extend your natural life-span. It brings the family together, and provides opportunities to connect with the community through sailing competitions, regattas, and club memberships.