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I’m not much of a singer, or at least I never thought of myself as one. But that didn’t stop Sue Young, a fellow resident and director of the volunteer Friendship Village Choir, from encouraging me to join their group of 10 men and 37 women when I told her how excited I was that the choir recently rocked a Chicago Wolves game with their rendition of “Sweet Home Chicago.”
Sue told me that everyone is welcome to sing, whether they’ve been in choirs all their lives or never sang outside their own showers. “The woods would be very silent if no birds sang except for those who sang the best,” she told me, quoting Thoreau.
Then, she told me about all the research being done about the transformative power of singing in a choir for people of all ages, seniors included. And not just better lung capacity, even in people with COPD, but improvements in mood and cognition. So, helpless to resist any longer and knowing I didn’t have to audition, I said, “Okay, I’m in.”
It was kind of interesting, the timing of our conversation, as I’d recently read about the Schaumburg Park District’s Summer Breeze Concert Series from July 7-August 25, offering six free concerts by the lake on the grounds of the Robert O. Atcher Municipal Center. I had just made a note to myself to take advantage of these performances, ranging from symphonic to soft rock and high-energy sounds, when Sue extended the invitation for me to make music of my own with the choir!
After my first rehearsal last Thursday morning (which began with meditative yoga led by one of our fitness specialists), I was so energized and uplifted, I decided to do my own research into the benefits of music, particularly for people my age. I found several studies on the subject.
One looked at 60 seniors with fibromyalgia who were randomly selected to listen to music once a day for a month. These people had a lot less pain after four weeks than those in the control group who didn’t listen to music. Another followed patients who’d had spinal surgery and were told to listen to music before surgery. They, too, had significantly less post-op pain than those who didn’t listen to music.
A third study included 30 seniors who were asked to walk on a treadmill until they were exhausted. Some walked with uptempo, synchronous music (the kind that would make me want to kick up my heels!), some with non-motivational music, and some with no music at all. The study found that music helps people exercise longer, with the kind of music, or lack thereof, directly correlating to one’s stamina.
Other sources I found say that singing, playing, listening or dancing to music improves older adults’ physical and psychological health, memory and cognitive thinking, stress and anxiety levels, immune function, mobility and coordination, sleep, recovery time and (as shown in the studies), pain levels and perseverance.
It also relieves boredom, encourages positive memories and thinking patterns, and promotes social interaction. I’ve seen that first-hand; I already feel like the choir is my very caring, loving new family! Music also has the amazing ability to evoke happy memories and emotions from long ago in people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
Wow! And here I thought I was just going to peep out a few notes with my fellow residents every now and then. Not so at all; the choir has a very active schedule, performing at many events both in and outside of Friendship Village, including Schaumburg Boomers baseball games and singing with kids at the Children’s Home and Aid Society of Schaumburg.
Coming up next on May 20, we’re singing at our quarterly service of remembrance. Sue is also thinking about music for our Thanksgiving, Christmas and Holy Week performances as well as what we’ll be singing at our holiday concert and singalong in December and our “Spring Fling Sing” a year from now!
Her enthusiasm is contagious, which is a good thing to catch, because music is good for my health – and yours, too!