Community Choirs Reduce Loneliness and Increase Interest in Life for Older Adults

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An innovative San Francisco program of community choirs for older adults found that singing in a choir reduced loneliness and increased interest in life, but did not improve cognition or physical function, according to a study by researchers at UC San Francisco. 

The program – Community of Voices – was a collaboration between UCSF and the nonprofit San Francisco Community Music Center (CMC), as well as the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), that aimed to assess whether art-based social interventions could substantively improve quality of life for older adults. 

“Our current health and social systems are not prepared to help support our rapidly increasing population of older adults,” said lead author Julene Johnson, PhD, associate dean for research and professor in the UCSF School of Nursing. “There’s a high percentage who experience loneliness and social isolation, and depression also is relatively high. There’s a need to develop novel approaches to help older adults stay engaged in the community and also stay connected.”

The 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, and are increasingly diverse, with nearly 22 percent currently from racial/ethnic minority backgrounds – increasing to almost a third by 2030 – and at increased risk for poor health outcomes. Previous studies have shown that social isolation and depression can exacerbate poor health.

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

“Thanks to the vision and leadership of UCSF and Julene Johnson, we now have evidence-based research to support the value of choirs for older adults,” said Sylvia Sherman, CMC program director.

In the Nov. 9, 2018, …

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