Not all healthy pastimes require you to break a sweat or change your diet. Sometimes Aging Well can be as easy as do-re-mi. That’s right—you can Age Well simply by singing, or better yet, singing with others. Research has proven that singing in a group can improve your mood, your brain health, and even your immune system.
This is great news for those who already love to burst into song—and that is a lot of people. The chorus advocacy group Chorus America estimates that 42.6 million Americans regularly sing in organized groups. One such group can be found at Splendido, an all-inclusive community for those 55 and better in Tucson.
A Harmonious Example
The Splendido Singers, currently a group of 12 residents, formed soon after Splendido opened in 2006 and is currently organized by resident Nancy White. Nancy explains that the group rehearses every Wednesday with a break in the summertime. “Just going to our rehearsals puts you in a good mood,” she says. “We have fun singing, and we also just plain have fun! You come away feeling happy.”
The Singers give performances for other residents and their guests three times a year—at the holidays, in March, and in late May or early June. They also sing patriotic songs on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. On each occasion, they give separate performances for Splendido and for residents in Sonora, the on-site health center.
“We have a professional director who volunteers his time with us,” explains Nancy. Mark Gary is the director of Traditional Music Ministry at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in Tucson. “H’s just wonderful—we love him,” says Nancy. “Also, one of the residents here volunteers as our accompanist. Marie Hampton is a wonderful pianist!”
Nancy, who is 83, is a longtime chorus member. “My husband and I both sing. In fact, we met when we were singing in the Green Valley Chorus,” she recalls. “We moved to Splendido over 10 years ago and joined the singers once the music director started.”
Nancy also plays pinochle, poker, mah-jongg, and bingo. She also visits the fitness center for the Worth the Weight class as well as rides the recumbent bike four days a week. “It’s easy to keep busy here—there’s something going on all the time,” she says.
The Accompanying Benefits of Singing
There has been much research done around the world on how the act of singing affects us. Here is an overview of just some of the health benefits that choral singers enjoy:
Brighter mood: Singing is a natural mood-booster, as most people know. The act of singing causes the body to release “feel-good” chemicals endorphins and oxytocin, which make us feel happy and in turn ease stress and anxiety.
Singing in a group has special benefits; a Turkish study found that people who spent an hour a week singing in a choir had less anxiety and negative emotions than non-singing counterparts.
Stronger immune system: Group singing has benefits for physical health, too: a German study of professional choir members used blood draws before and after a one-hour rehearsal, finding not only reduced levels of stress hormone but higher levels of antibodies compared to choir members who simply listened to music.
Social connections: A British study indicates that people who take part in a choir experience a stronger sense of participating in a collective endeavor than those involved in other social activities including team sports.
Improved memory: Researchers have seen improvements in memory in singers and believe that it is the effect of getting more oxygenated blood to the brain.
General well-being: In a 2017 study, 1,779 choir members from around the world reported that choral singing fostered social connection, cognitive stimulation, mental health, enjoyment, and transcendence.
Perhaps the best news of all: You don’t have to be a good singer to enjoy these benefits. One study shows that singing in a group conveys “satisfying and therapeutic sensations even when the sound produced by the vocal instrument is of mediocre quality.”
Interested in Aging Well through singing? The Tucson area has many options, including church choirs, community choruses, a capella groups, and more. And if your voice is “of mediocre quality” or you prefer not to participate in a group, keep in mind that you can reap some healthy benefits by singing in the privacy of your shower.