Sing a New Song: Community Songwriting and Singing to Enhance the Quality of Life and Health of Older Adults
AbstractAccording to the United Nations, the world population of older adults will surpass 2 billion by the year 2050. These older adults risk a reduction in Quality of Life (QOL) due to chronic illness. The United States government reports, for example, that more that 90% of Americans over 65 live with at least one chronic illness and 80% with two or more. This study, involving 29 older adults, measured the effects of a six-week songwriting and singing intervention on self-perceived QOL and health. Participants were randomly divided into intervention (n = 14) and waitlist control (n = 15) groups. Each participant completed the brief World Health Organization Quality of Life measure (WHOQOL-BREF), the Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) and the General Self-Efficacy (GSE) scale prior to the intervention, after the six-week intervention and at a six-week follow up. Unscheduled medical visits were also tracked. At the conclusion of the songwriting intervention, participants provided written qualitative comments about their experience.
An interaction was found between group and pre-post intervention scores on the psychological domain of the WHOQOL-BREF. Intervention group scores increased while control group scores decreased. This advantage was maintained at follow-up. Negative emotion scores on the PANAS scale increased for both groups, increases that were maintained at follow-up. Intervention group GSE scores increased, though the increase was not maintained at follow-up. An apparent inter-group difference in the mean rate of unscheduled medical visits was not significant and may have reflected a disparity in the initial health condition of participants. Written qualitative responses to the songwriting process were highly positive for both groups.
Given the health risks faced by the world’s burgeoning older adult population, innovative approaches to maintaining and enhancing QOL and health are indicated. A songwriting and singing intervention like the one studied here offers hopeful possibilities.
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