Last March, as the coronavirus raged across Italy, something remarkable happened.  To raise one another’s spirits in the midst of stay-at-home orders, people started breaking into song from their windows and balconies.  Before we knew it, impromptu communal singing would spring up in other places around the world as well.  Without knowing it, these vocalists were keeping their memories sharp and focused.

Researchers from the University of Helsinki in Finland have made an exciting discovery!

The researchers studied the effect that singing in a choir had on 106 neurologically healthy adults aged 60 or older while another group of non-choir singers acted as a control.  All participants filled out six questionnaires which evaluated cognitive functioning, depression, social well-being, quality of life, and the role music plays in their daily schedule. They also underwent a battery of neurological tests.

In addition, the singers were divided into two groups based on how long they’d been singing with a choir. Those who had started earlier in life and had sung in a choir for more than ten years were the high activity group, and those who had started later in life and had sung in a choir for one to ten years were the low activity group. The results were remarkable.

The main finding of the research was that all singers outshone non-singers in verbal flexibility, which in turn reflects better cognitive flexibility, similar to playing a musical instrument.

Also, the high activity group scored better than both other groups in terms of social integration. The researchers believe the personal relationships formed with other choir members binds them together and becomes an integral part of their social life.

A surprising finding was that low activity choir singers had better general health than both of the other groups.  The researchers speculated on the reason for this, saying, “It’s possible that the people who have joined a choir later in life have thus found the motivation to maintain their health by adhering to an active and healthy lifestyle.”

So join a choir or open up your window to belt out your favorite tune and see if others will join you. Of course, if that doesn’t appeal to you, there’s always the shower.

From Brain Health Breakthroughs, Vol. 3, Issue 791