Reduce doctor visits and medication use. Have fewer health problems. Feel less lonely. Have fewer instances of falls. Is it some magic elixir that produces all of these positive results?
Nope. It’s singing … in a chorus! According to a George Washington University study, seniors 65 years of age and older who participated in a chorus, as compared to a group who did not, did indeed experience the above benefits. Utilizing established assessment questionnaires and self-reported measures, the study also showed the group that sang in the chorus had a higher overall rating of physical health and evidenced better morale than the comparison group.
The benefit that made the Falls Prevention Coalition sit up and take notice was, not surprisingly, the fewer instances of falls. Wow! Imagine singing as a falls risk reduction tool. Then again, think of what we do when we sing. We exercise. Not the usual lift weights-type, but we move and we have to stay balanced. And vocal, warm-up exercises also require us to be physical. Performing physical activities helps reduce the risk of falling as our strength and range of motion benefit from remaining active. Social activities, like singing in a group, are also good for our overall health.
So, keeping all of that in mind, we’ve decided to start a senior chorus!
This chorus is different than our community’s established singing groups, from the Master Chorale to choirs. This one requires no experience. You don’t need to be able to read music or have ever sung in a group … though if you do and have, you’re welcome, too. Even if you’ve been told you can’t sing (or have convinced yourself you can’t), we want you to come and prove “them” (and yourself!) wrong. All that’s required is being 65 or older with a willingness to go a bit outside of your comfort zone.
We’ll sing rock and roll, pop, Motown and folk. This is not a sing-a-long. We’ll meet once a week for an hour of rehearsal, with the goal of performing on occasion. In fact, we hope to have our first performance at the seventh annual Falls Prevention Community Event in mid-September.
Other studies are being conducted on the health benefits of senior choruses, including a multi-year, large scale one out of UCSF that will track 12 senior choruses established in senior centers across San Francisco. We think these researchers are on to something … singing as a way to improve physical and mental health.
Is that not cool?
For more information, call HelpLine Senior Information and Assistance, 530-273-2273 and leave your contact info. I’ll get back to you.
Cynthia Schuetz is coordinator for the Falls Prevention Coalition of Nevada County.