President's Blog

CHFA is proud to be the voice of the natural health industry. As CHFA President, I am proud to be our organization’s voice. From the latest updates on issues affecting our industry, to my personal insights on professional life, my blog, "The Long Story", is a collection of thoughts and ideas that will give you a unique perspective into our industry.




Old Dog, New Trick

On August 4, 2016

Like a lot of people, I took music lessons in school: several years of clarinet playing in school bands and orchestras, and a few years of singing in the choir. I enjoyed it but my talent level determined that it certainly wasn’t going to be a career for me. Eventually, music became something I enjoyed listening to or singing along with in the car.

My secret desire was always to play piano, but lessons were expensive at the time and we didn’t have a piano to practise on so it just wasn’t an option. When my son began violin lessons a few years ago I decided that maybe it was time to try piano.

Learning as an adult is a lot harder than learning as a child. I have spent many a session lamenting the fact that it seems so easy for the eight-year-old with the time slot before me. I like to think I’m fairly competent but it wasn’t quite as easy as I imagined.

I definitely had an advantage as I could already read music. After the first few months I felt like I’d gotten the hang of some basic fingering and was playing most of the songs in the beginner book, so I purchased several beginner-level books of popular tunes. Unfortunately the picture in my mind wasn’t quite aligned with the reality.

Sometimes the title in the book seemed to be a song that I knew, yet the music coming from the piano didn’t sound exactly like it does on the radio. Finally someone explained to me that songs that are originally written for guitar don’t always sound the same on piano. Good point. 

So I switched to playing the classics: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach. Christmas carols also seem to work well on piano, and this helped a lot as I could finally reproduce something that a listener could identify. I verified this by asking my husband what the song was every time he said it “sounded good.” Sometimes he was right. 

While I will never be an accomplished pianist, I’ve learned enough to enjoy playing. One of the best things for me about learning to play piano is the health benefits I wasn’t aware of. For example, research demonstrates that playing an instrument can impact your physical health by lowering blood pressure, reducing stress and enhancing your immune system. That’s definitely something that everyone can benefit from.

By engaging in music-making throughout life, you’re also taking part in cognitive exercise and helping your brain to stay healthy. One study showed that as little as six months of lessons after the age of 60 can have a positive impact on memory, information processing and planning ability. And an article published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that musicians who play frequently are less likely to develop dementia. So the sooner you start, the better, when you’re thinking about the impact of aging.

There are health benefits to all kinds of leisure activities. For me, learning to play piano was something I’d always wanted to do. One of my friends in the industry is taking some extreme mountain-biking lessons and, from what I’ve seen, it looks like a great way to stay in shape and increase agility. Piano seems a little safer, but to each his own. The important thing is to try something new, because apparently you can teach old — or at least medium-aged — dogs new tricks.

Yours in health and happiness,