Simon Heather
Category: Sound Healing

Final Episode from "The Healing Power of Music" - Ageing Study Yields Powerful Results

One of the most specific studies on singing and health was concluded in 2004. The Levine School of Music in Washington, D.C. formed a Senior Singers Chorale in 2001 as part of a wider study examining how singing could affect the health of people 55 and older.


The three-year study, “Creativity and Ageing: The Impact of Professionally Conducted Cultural Programs on Older Adults,” was led by Dr. Gene D. Cohen, director of the Center on Ageing, Health, and Humanities at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.


It involved groups of seniors in three parts of the country participating in professionally directed cultural programs: painting in Brooklyn, writing in San Francisco, and singing in Washington, D.C. A key requirement for Cohen was that the intervention groups are run professionally, so as to sharpen the impact of the participation. And in each region, a control group was set up to compare results.


Cohen found clear differences in the health of seniors involved in the arts programs and those in the control groups. The intervention group, for example, reported an average of 30 fewer visits to the doctor as well as fewer eyesight problems, less incidence of depression, less need for medication, and fewer falls and other injuries.


Given their advanced ages, it was expected that both groups would show some overall decline in general health measures – what was not expected was the degree to which arts involvement would improve their health.


“My surprise was not a factor of whether the intervention would work, but how big an effect it would have at an advanced age,” said Cohen. “The average age of all the subjects was 80. This is higher than life expectancy, so, realistically, if an effect were to be achieved, one would ordinarily expect to see less decline in the intervention group compared to the control. The fact that there was so much improvement in many areas was the surprise factor,” he said.


Jeanne Kelly, director of the Levine School of Music, Arlington Campus, was asked by Cohen to form the Senior Singers Chorale that was used in the study. Kelly has worked with many choruses and opera companies over the years and was determined to keep standards high, and not make it easy for the new ensemble just because it comprised the elderly.


“The first time I walked in, I told them, ‘I’m going to treat all of you the way I treat all of my students.’ They liked that – they like to be pushed,” said Kelly. “The seniors do not want to sing only soft or easy repertoire – they like music that demands, and displays, energy.”


When the announcement was made that a chorus for seniors was being formed – no experience necessary, no requirement other than being 55 or older – Kelly was not sure how many would respond. However, 65 seniors showed up at the first rehearsal, more than expected. Now in its fourth year, the chorus numbers 93.


The seniors tell Kelly that they undoubtedly feel better because of their singing – both in daily life and specifically when they are singing. They find, for example, that their everyday voice quality is better, that the tone of their speaking voice does not seem to age as much, and they report easier breathing and better posture as well. One chorus member was quoted in a CBS News story saying, “You feel better – you don’t feel that ache in your legs,” noting that she doesn’t have time to think about her ailments because she is too busy thinking about meeting the challenge.


“They especially love the challenge of performing,” said Kelly. The chorus has already appeared at the Kennedy Center four times, in addition to other public performances in the Washington area. They have also performed with Levine School’s Virginia Big Band (composed of students ages 12 to 18) singing jazz favourites such as “It Don’t Mean A Thing,” and “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.”


You can now either purchase the book directly from Simon on this link, or continue reading the NINTH Episode of the book using this link.

Posted: 09 Jun 2012 By: Music Music & Psyche Network Music Music & Psyche Network

Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information Simon, I feel strongly that we need to collect and create a sustained body of research about the efficacy of musical and sound practice and this is a wonderful contribution.

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