Singing in choirs might reduce loneliness for older adults

Washington D.C. [USA], Nov 11 (ANI): Singing in a choir reduced loneliness and increased interest in the lives of older adults, a recent study suggests.

“Our current health and social systems are not prepared to help support our rapidly increasing population of older adults,” said Julene Johnson, lead author of the study.

“There’s a high percentage of older adults who experience loneliness and social isolation and depression. There’s a need to develop novel approaches to help older adults stay engaged in the community and also stay connected,” Julene explained.

Nearly 50 million Americans aged 65 and older, represented 15.2 percent of the total U.S. population in 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Previous studies have shown that social isolation and depression can exacerbate poor health. The study was published in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences.

A potential novel approach is to engage them in the arts as they can be offered in the community, at a relatively low cost. These are engaging and can be culturally tailored. One option is community choirs, as about 32.5 million U.S. adults regularly sing in choirs.

As part of the study, 12 federally supported senior centers in San Francisco were randomized into a weekly group choir program designed to engage adults age 60 and older cognitively, physically and socially. Over a three-year period, 390 English- and Spanish-speaking participants were enrolled into either a group that started choirs immediately or another group that initiated choirs six months later (182 members). Two-thirds of the participants were from diverse backgrounds, 20 percent reported financial hardship, and 60 percent had two or more chronic medical conditions.

The Community of Voices choirs were led by professional choir directors and accompanists. They identified music repertoire that was culturally tailored for each site, appropriate for older adults with various singing abilities, and challenging enough to facilitate growth and mastery over time. The 90-minute choir sessions included informal public performances.

During the study, singers completed memory, coordination and balance tests, and completed questionnaires about their emotional well-being. Researchers assessed outcomes at six months, along with the health care costs.

Overall, the researchers found that older adults who sang in a choir for six months experienced significant improvements in loneliness and interest in life. However, no substantial group differences occurred in the cognitive or physical outcomes or for health care costs. The overall six-month retention rate was 92 percent. [source_without_link]ANI[/source_without_link]