A new film called “Unfinished Song”, soon to be released, stars Vanessa Redgrave and Terence Stamp and features a senior choral singing group. This comes hard on the heels of the British movie “Quartet” which is set in Beecham House, a retirement home for gifted musicians, patterned after the real-life Casa di Riposo per Musicisti founded by Giuseppe Verdi. The N.Y. Times blog, The New Old Age cites evidence that singing groups may have found one of the secrets to healthy aging. On the other hand the movie industry may have found a new use for older, well-worn actors to star in films… 

In “Unfinished Song,” Redgrave, 75, playing Stamp’s dying wife, discovers that singing in a local senior center’s choral group helps her stay grounded in the present and also face her fate. Stamp’s character is a grumpy, difficult caregiver to his wife, but is reluctantly drawn into the singing group by the film’s series of events. But he undergoes a personal and spiritual transformation, finding hope and grace through the choral group. 

The blog post reports many studies have shown the physical and mental health benefits of seniors participating in singing groups. One 2006 study compared chorus groups over age 65 with non-singing 65+ senior groups and the chorus groups reported fewer falls, a more active lifestyle, feeling less lonely and overall better health. The science behind singing also supports healthier aging, showing stronger neural brain connections, stress reduction, and healthier immune systems.

Our Retirement Home offers a choir among its many activities for the residents and we faithfully attend their performances, marveling at the professional choirmaster’s perseverance, not only in organizing such a group, but in getting the members to sing together. After the last performance I suggested to a couple of my closer friends that listening to the choir may not be extending our lives at all…