VoiceBox: Colorado seniors sing for intellectual, spiritual health

· Nov. 19, 2014, 7:13 am
Photo: Seniors sing the “Music Man” in Denver retirement home(Photo: John Klein Wilson)
Seniors in the theater group at Clermont Park retirement community rehearse the “Music Man.”

VoiceBox is a sound-rich exploration of the human voice. Each episode delves into the diverse world of shouters, singers, announcers and stutterers, and ponders the meaning and importance of the most primal of musical instruments.

In “Aging Voices,” we speak to Colorado seniors whose voices have changed, their directors, and a professor who believes that singing when you're older is good for you.

John Ahlenius, 75, says that singing "The Music Man" with the theater group at Clermont Park retirement community has been beneficial.

“The intellectual stuff, the memorizing, the learning new things, the stimulating our brain, the physical, the dancing, the movement," Ahlenius says. "The social, getting to know each other a little bit better, learn more names. And then the spiritual side. ”

Fellow cast member Trudy VanderVeen is a lifelong singer. But at age 85, she knows her voice has changed.  

“And I don’t know what the change is but I know I can hear myself singing differently than I used to sing," VanderVeen says. "That’s because I’m old now."

Silvertones Choir director Mike Krueger acknowledged that as his singers get older, it's tougher: their lung capacity decreases and their voice range shrinks a bit. But to overcome that, Krueger says that the singers focus more on their bodies.

“We spend a good 20 minutes on our warm up and our stretch exercises," Krueger says.

Professor Julene Johnson of the University of California San Francisco says the effort is worth it since singing could actually help seniors stay healthier.
“There is a cost associated with providing a choir in the community," Johnson says. "But if the cost is lower relative to how much we’re saving in terms of healthcare dollars, the choir is a cost-effective way to promote health."

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