Older Adults Benefit From the Power of Song

How do you stay healthy as you age? Just ask anyone in the VocalEssence Vintage Voices program—singing.

This spring, Vintage Voices conductor Rob Graham and piano accompanist John Jensen are rehearsing choirs at Sabathani Senior Center and Ebenezer Park Apartments in Minneapolis in preparation for their performances this May. Rehearsals bring seniors together, to socialize and connect with a purpose—making beautiful music. But the experience goes even deeper: the sensory-rich activities offered by Vintage Voices are designed to reduce depression, as well as increase engagement, joy, and self-esteem.

“Singing taps into so much of what makes us individuals—it’s emotionally expressive, cathartic, and when you sing with others, you’re also staying engaged and purposeful,” said Rob Graham, Vintage Voices conductor. “Seniors in our programs love the challenge of learning new skills like vocal technique, and they get a real boost of energy from coming together to rehearse every week as a choir. Last year’s program was a huge success, and it looks like we’ll have as much fun at this year’s pair of spring concerts.”

“It’s been so rewarding to see the response to the Vintage Voices program from VocalEssence,” said Georgia Marinkov-Omorean, senior center manager at Sabathani. “Studies have shown that singing improves mood, memory, and cognitive function, but the real proof is in the excitement we see in our clients as they come to the rehearsals every week. The program brings an infusion of youthful energy and enthusiasm that is truly priceless. We see a real change in our seniors that continues on after the singing is through.”

“I sing in my church choir. Now, in addition, I look forward to the Vintage Voices rehearsals every week,” said Gwen Fraction, a choir member of the Sabathani Community Center Senior Center. “You don’t often get an opportunity to be a part of something like this. As we get older, we can still learn and improve at anything if we work at it. We have so much fun singing together, and—I have to say—I think we sound great.”

And special this spring, singers from the Sabathani Vintage Voices choir and Champlin Park High School’s select ensemble Viva Voce are teaming up to perform an inter-generational commission by Minnesota composer Catherine Dalton. Funded by the Louis and Mary Kay Smith Family Foundation, the commission will not only be used at the performance, but hopefully will become a model in the future to demonstrate what can happen when these two different generations come together in song.

The choir at Sabathani Senior Center takes the stage on Thursday, May 5 at 6:00 pm; participants at Ebenezer Park Apartments will perform at 3:00 pm on Thursday, May 12; receptions will follow after both concerts, which are free and open to the public.

For more information about these concerts and Vintage Voices, please call 612-547-1458 or visit vocalessence.org. The program will also be held in the fall of 2016 at additional senior centers.