Accommodating the challenges of aging when teaching piano to Elders is a necessity in order to make musical study and appreciation a pleasurable experience for them. As I have assisted my older students , many of them staying with me and the piano for 5-10 years, I have been able to witness the changes that occur over time in the years between 65-86, cognitively and physically. Although my elder students are bright of spirit and enthusiasm, verbally quick-witted in humor and expression, and quite active in life, there is sometimes a slowing down of processing mind-eye-hand co-ordination and implementation at the keyboard, or a little confusion at using the outer registers of the piano and coming back to center. It takes a little longer to settle into big chords.
But I insist that we can make music at any age and accommodations to the aging process must be generous and patient! One of my students lost part of a finger and has a prosthesis that looks so real that you would not even notice! It is on the middle finger of her right hand. It does not have “feeling” and is not as strong as a real finger. We always need to adjust fingering for that when using thirds and thirds in a chord in the music. All older students benefit from simple exercise books for flexibility of fingers stiff from arthritis in some cases. (I prefer the Schaum Fingerpower series because the printing is larger and darker for older eyes, and the exercises are short and specific. No Hanon here for the most part)
And Wite-Out! Always on the piano especially for Marian, going on 86 who sometimes gets confused when there are too many notes in the left hand in accompaniment. It is my task to discern which notes get whited out but still retaining the essence of the music. And yes, that goes for whiting out notes in Bach too! Sacrilegious ? Oh yes! BUT why would we deny Marian the PLEASURE of Bach and a “flow” if looking for the 2nd or 3rd left hand note in a 4/4 measure stops her cold in confusion. Simplify! Move through and enjoy the essence!
All students come and go eventually…kids move on to tai-chi lessons, teenagers take part-time after school jobs or join 5-days a week practice in sports, busy daddies and moms have to insert longer work-hours..these days life is so complicated for those who are challenged by the culture to have time for music and the arts. In a way, those of younger age who move on move on to busier lives. Elders who move on, well…they move on from lessons because they can no longer drive, get a pace-maker, relocate to Florida, break a hip,and in one sad case, began the slow decline into early altzheimers and could no longer sit at the piano without great confusion and frustration. But my older students who come at this time, between the ages of 65-85 are so vibrant, enthusastic and fun-loving, that any accomodations we have to make for making music together are just fine! We have so many good times together! A joy!
Life can be so rich!
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From Christine, the Piano Mistress