Finding fun and health in melody
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