Adult Students


Elderly students

QuestionQuestion
Felicity E., Australia

Any advice for teaching students in their 70s? I’ve got a couple in their early 70s who seem to lack a sense of time. The motor skills are also a struggle. She has some arthritis as well as a finger that locks, and he is quite tall with large hands, with fingers a tad wide to fit in between the black keys. He is also quite tall and struggles to fit under the piano.

Progress has been slow, Foundation 1 and half of Accompaniment 1 in just over 12 months. She has always dreamed of learning piano and they continue to plod along. Just wondering if other have more experience with older students.

Answer
Amy L., California

I have an older student who practices far more than any of my other students and progresses far more slowly. but it’s progress and she’s playing piano. Are you doing improv with them?

Answer
Joanne D., Australia

I have three students in their 70s. One of them is about to finish Level 9 but has been coming for 181 lessons (now comes every 2 weeks). She has not kept up a playlist of many songs though and I have accepted this. She is enjoying herself and it is helping her brain, so it’s a win/win.

One of my male seniors was learning at a good pace for a long time and then had a fall with bleeding on the brain, and had a break from piano for a term and then came back. He’s never been the same. We focus on very small amounts and go over things a lot. We have just reduced his playlist to a more manageable amount of songs as he just can’t keep up. He is also enjoying himself and comes out to local nursing homes and plays a few songs regularly.

I don’t know that I have much advice except to go as slow as necessary and break everything into micro teaching fragments and let them enjoy themselves.

I had one adult male who had broader fingers, and he just moved towards the black keys when necessary. He found it easy enough to adapt.

Answer
Ian B., California

I have some students like you’re describing. In some ways, seniors require just as much patience and positive affirmation/encouragement as 5- and 6-year-olds. Everyone’s fingers are different but you are still going to be working with them to develop muscle control and an ease. It just takes time. If Rachmaninoff (who was gigantic) can do it, then anyone can.