Footnotes: I have had responses to the above:
Yes indeed, an interesting topic. I've also dwelt on a related subject: is it ever too late to take up a musical instrument? Are there some instruments which are easier to take up than others as age advances? As we know, it is physically and mentally demanding, and I understand that different instruments suit different people. But maybe there is also a sliding scale of age-related suitability. From your experience can you recall who has taken up what and when and with what degree of success?
Ralph: I personally know of only five musicians who started to learn instruments from scratch when they were already 60 years old or more (one of them slightly younger than that). Three chose the banjo, one the clarinet and one the piano. They all worked hard at it and I'm pleased to report that they all now play in bands.
Chris (pianist) has drawn my attention to this website:
The writer makes the point that you have to 'use it or lose it' and that taking up a musical instrument in old age (as a beginner) can be beneficial.
Jazz saxophone / clarinet player John has written this:
Ivan, I agree with your comments concerning onset of memory loss. IF memory loss is because the grey cells are not frequently used, then surely playing as opposed to listening to music is to my mind going to be more helpful. However, one needs to be aware that a physical reason, namely lack of blood supply is very likely to be a very real problem, in which case regular exercise is surely of great help in delaying the inevitable. Low-fat diet is probably also very helpful, if a physical condition is the cause. Since brain cells cease to re-generate, heavy drinking could be a factor, though judging by the excessive drinking habits of some musicians, who nevertheless still have super memories, in my opinion drink is not likely a meaningful reason. As an aside, lack of sleep severely affects my memory! Though this recovers after resting.