Singing – A Melodious Therapy for Aging Adults

elderly singing

Apart from the artistic appeal, music has the power to simulate very real, critical, and cherished human emotions. Right from cartoon theme songs to cult rock anthems, from action songs for children to ballads with beautiful lyrics, from celebration songs played year after year to classical tunes from several decades back – different songs and forms of music create different impressions on the mind, drawing different emotions among listeners.

Singing and Science

The emotional pleasure of music multiplies exponentially when you sing your favorite songs, which makes singing one of the most vivifying indulgences for humans. Scientists and researchers have worked at length to identify the tangible and intangible benefits of musical and singing training for children. However, recent research efforts have tried to find out whether singing has any therapeutic influences to help ageing adults overcome the unique health challenges they face.

Keeping Neurological Health Disorders at Bay with Music and Singing

elderly women sing
Image Courtesy of Sage

Neurological disorders are a part and parcel of lives of aging adults. Singing has remarkable roles to play in improving the emotional, psychological, and neurological wellness of adults.

A study published in ‘Music Perception’ journal concluded that singing significantly helped seniors afflicted neurological diseases. Patients with Parkinson’s disease and aphasia were analyzed as a part of this study, and the results suggested that singing was instrumental in improving the brain functionality of the subjects.

Researchers used neuroimaging technologies to study the neurological responses of patients and found that singing simulated parts of the brain responsible for regulating emotional wellness. Also, singing is known to help elderly people enunciate words correctly, and communicate better.

Empowering Seniors to Live Better, more Enjoyable Lives

Ageing adults, especially those who experience deteriorating health, are no longer employed, and live away from their families, deserve better lives. Singing comes to the fore as a remedy. A research carried out at Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland studied the effect of singing sessions on 30 patients who were afflicted with moderate to severe dementia.

After the administration of singing sessions, all participants reported better self-confidence, keenness to interact with people, lower anxiety and stress levels, and a wholesome feeling of wellbeing and quality of life.

Another research, conducted at George Washington University in Washington DC, vetted the findings of other studies that indicate positive influences of singing on the mental and physical health of the elderly. Participants in this study joined a choir and experiences better eyesight, lower hospital visits, better breathing patterns, better postures, and clear tone of voice.

elderly group singing
Image Courtesy of Science of Caring

Singing Helps Bring People Together, Fostering Social Connections

A surprisingly large proportion of psychological health problems that trouble ageing adults result from the lack of social interactions, and emotional voids they encounter in the latter years of their lives. Singing activities, such as joining a choir or a musical band, have significant roles to play in bridging these emotional gaps because such indulgences naturally require the participants to interact, collaborate, and be together for extended periods of time. Such activities help seniors engage in meaningful conversations with people facing the same life problems as them, apart from the obvious benefit of drawing a sense of emotional wellbeing from the act of singing.

Socializing with their peers from the choir classes helps a lot of elderly people in Finland, to the extent that Julene Johnson, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), traveled to Finland to observe how ageing adults utilized networking opportunities in choir singing sessions and even engaged in other activities such as gym, jogging, or playing sports, based on feedback and motivation from peers.

The Neurochemical Pool called Singing!

Apart from the intangible benefits of singing, researchers have explored measurable impacts of singing towards synthesizing important neurochemicals in the bodies of ageing adults. Researchers from the Department of Psychology, McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, found that singing increased the production of immunoglobin A in the bodies of participants.

singing exercise
Image Courtesy of YouTube

Singing also brought down the levels of stress being experienced by the participants. The results of the study were published in Journal Trends in Cognitive Science. Apart from immunoglobin A, singing helps catalyze the production of at least two other important neurochemicals that promote emotional and psychological health.

  • Singing is a trigger for heightened release of dopamine, the ‘feel good’ hormone that creates a sense of joy and happiness within the human body.
  • Singers often enjoy higher levels of oxytocin, a neurochemical responsible for promoting a sense of social affiliation and integration.

By helping the elderly with sharper brain functions, social belongingness, and better quality of life, singing has proven its worth as a therapy to help adults enjoy their lives as they age.

Featured Image: Image Credit

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Senior Choirs Show the Benefits of Singing (and Help Scientists Understand Them)

sfcvThe gray light of a San Francisco winter, peering through the windows of the 30th Street Senior Center, is brightened as it reflects off the pages of music held by 42 of what the facility terms “participants.” Equally illuminating are their massed voices, singing, “On Monday, give me the gift of love!”

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Nigel Brown created Sing For Your Life to bring music to seniors

globe and mail1When Nigel Brown was growing up in Britain, his home was usually filled with the sound of his mother singing. Even as a senior living on her own in rural England, Katherine Brown loved to sing. “Whenever you drove up to the cottage, you heard singing,” Mr. Brown, 72, recalled from his home in Kelowna, B.C.

Mr. Brown’s brother, Stuart, kept up the singing tradition, joining a choir in Britain and becoming involved in research into the benefits of music for seniors. That led to the creation of Sing For Your Life, a British charity that runs specially designed singing and music programs for elderly people. Via Globe and Mail