This study examines the personal meaning and importance of music in the lives of older people, paying particular attention to the ways in which music contributes to self-identity and the quality of life. The data derive from qualitative interviews with a sample of older Australians aged 65 years and over who live in rural and urban settings. The findings reveal that music provides people with ways of understanding and developing their self-identity, of connecting with other people, of maintaining wellbeing and of experiencing and expressing spirituality, and that it provides strong associations with and memories of a person's life. Specifically, the results show how music is used as a source of entertainment as well as a forum to share and interact with others. Music was described as a personal experience to which people assigned meaning and emotions. The informants also described how music allowed them to engage in imaginative play and to escape from some of the hardships experienced in later life. The results reveal that music promotes quality of life by contributing to positive self-esteem, by helping people feel competent and independent, and by lessening feelings of isolation and loneliness. The paper argues that music can be used to maintain and promote a better quality of life for older people.
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