As loneliness becomes a social health problem for older adults, solutions are constantly being tested. From high-tech robots and personalized virtual speakers, researchers and inventors are pulling out all the stops to find an antidote to a very real and multifaceted problem. However, older adults in California have found a low-tech solution for loneliness: singing. More specifically, a choir.
CNN reports that a group of older adults in California is deriving important benefits from participating in their local choir. They explain that the structure of having a schedule, meeting new people, and doing something that is simply fun makes this activity socially and emotionally important. The choir group emerged from a study, but went beyond that when older participants received it so positively that they obtained a grant to keep it running. The study’s results showcased that singing in a choir for about six months reduced loneliness and increased interest in life. The neuroscientist behind the study, Julene Johnson, says that arts are an innovative way to improve health. In fact, the National Institutes of Health now has a manual to help other communities launch their own choirs.
Older adults of varying abilities can benefit from joining a choir. For example, the Washington Post reports that 67 choirs for people with dementia have formed worldwide in recent years. The Good Memories Choir was founded for people with dementia and their caregivers, following the findings of another crucial study about the benefits of joining a choir. The Center of Cognitive Neurology at New York University found that participants with dementia had increased communication and improved quality of life.
Whether older adults join a choir to ease symptoms of dementia or to address loneliness, singing with a group seems to hold benefits. Jonathan Miller, cofounder of Good Memories Choir, claims that regardless of whether participants are cognitively present, he believes they can feel joy.
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Nicholson R. This choir features singers with dementia. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/2018/12/27/this-choirs-features-singers-with-dementia/?utm_term=.fa877eb69153. Accessed May 2, 2019.
Lee L. Study sings the praises of choir membership for lonely older adults. CNN.com. https://www.cnn.com/2019/04/12/health/singing-in-choir-can-help-lonely-older-adults-sw/index.html. Accessed May 2, 2019.