Lately, we’ve explored the topic of the media’s perpetuating of aging stereotypes and been heartened by Hollywood’s use of older, well-known actors to star in films. A new film “Unfinished Song,” to be released soon stars Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp and features a senior choral singing group. The N.Y. Times blog, The New Old Age, examines the content and message in the film and cites evidence that suggests singing groups may have found one secret to healthy aging.
Redgrave, 75, playing Stamp’s dying wife, discovers that singing in a local senior center’s choral group helps her stay grounded in the present and also face her fate. Stamp’s character is a grumpy, difficult caregiver to his wife, but is reluctantly drawn into the singing group by the film’s series of events (no spoilers here!). But he undergoes a personal and spiritual transformation, finding hope and grace through the choral group.
The blog post reports many studies have shown the physical and mental health benefits of seniors participating in singing groups. One 2006 study compared chorus groups over age 65 with non-singing 65+ senior groups and the chorus groups reported fewer falls, a more active lifestyle, feeling less lonely and overall better health. The science behind singing also supports healthier aging, showing stronger neural brain connections, stress reduction, and healthier immune systems.
Infusion of Choral Groups
Out of the 2006 study, many programs have been developed to offer chorus groups at senior centers and community colleges. The Encore Creativity for Older Adults program has 13 groups in Maryland, Virginia and Washington. Encouraging increased socialization, higher self-esteem, less depression and the benefits mentioned above, it seems “Unfinished Song” is on the right track. Throw in Vanessa Redgrave singing Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors,” and I’m putting this one on my calendar.