Find­ing fun and health in melody

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too. Two ladies joined us re­cently who had lost their hus­bands. One man who came for the first time said, ‘I have just spent an hour not think­ing once about my aches and pains’.”

Singing has been shown to re­lease en­dor­phins, re­duce stress lev­els and, ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished in the Jour­nal of Mu­sic Ther­apy, help peo­ple cope with chronic pain. A joint study by Har­vard and Yale uni­ver­si­ties in 2008 even claimed that singing in a group can in­crease life ex­pectancy.

Boughton Hall is part of the En­ter­prise Re­tir­ing Liv­ing group, which is build­ing two more re­tire­ment vil­lages: The Red House in Ripon, North York­shire, com­pris­ing 59 apart­ments that start from £250,000, and Mount Bat­ten­hall in Worces­ter.

Choirs and mu­sic groups are be­com­ing stan­dard fea­tures of re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties, and op­er­a­tors are nur­tur­ing this trend by pro­vid­ing pi­anos, re­hearsal rooms and even per­for­mance spa­ces. “All our vil­lages have a hall or large space for mu­si­cal per­for­mances,” says Os­car Rus­sell of Re­tire­ment Vil­lages. “Most vil­lages have choirs, some­times all-fe­male or male and some­times mixed, while oth­ers even have a nightlife vibe with mu­sic from the decades, danc­ing and a bar.” Own­ers at Cas­tle Vil­lage near Berkham­sted in Hert­ford­shire have even formed a jazz club.

“Mu­sic is a pas­sion for many peo­ple, in­clud­ing a lot of our res­i­dents,” says James Cobb, of Re­nais­sance Vil­lages. “As op­er­a­tors of re­tire­ment vil­lages, we strive to make peo­ple’s lives as ful­fill­ing as pos­si­ble. The grand pi­anos in many of our vil­lages’ club­houses help to achieve this – a re­flec­tion of the pas­sions of our res­i­dents.”

Re­tired mu­si­cian Dorothy Moore, 80, has 14 mem­bers in her choir The St El­phin’s Singers, which she formed at Aud­ley St El­phin’s Park, a de­vel­op­ment set across 14 acres in the Der­byshire Dales.

“It started with a few peo­ple singing car­ols one Christ­mas to cheer up res­i­dents who didn’t go out much,” she ex­plains. “We then did a con­cert and are now do­ing a cabaret night.”

Dorothy, a re­tired mu­sic ther­a­pist and teacher, has room in her apart­ment for a pi­ano and a cello. Mu­sic has been her life; she met her late hus­band when they played cello to­gether in a lo­cal orches­tra and were mar­ried for 56 years. “I couldn’t imag­ine mu­sic not be­ing part of my life. I still get to­gether with old friends from mu­sic col­lege to do part singing. It gives so much en­joy­ment and brings peo­ple to­gether.”

Learn­ing a new in­stru­ment in later life didn’t put off some doughty re­tirees at LifeCare Res­i­dences’ Grove Place, an independent liv­ing scheme near Rom­sey in Hamp­shire. There, the seven-strong Strum­mers and Pluck­ers, a self-taught ukulele group, have raised £500 for the Alzheimer’s So­ci­ety from a char­ity sin­gle they recorded at a nearby stu­dio.

St El­phin’s Singers, below, live in Aud­ley St El­phin’s Park, right

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