Tuning in To Singing in Later Life 

A singing group comprised of retirees from McCarthy Stone’s Chinnerys Court Retirement Living development in Braintree, is showing how singing lifts the spirits and can be good for your health. 

Jean Medcalfe is the group’s organiser, she says: “Singing gets people together. It’s good for the lungs and it makes you feel happy.

“I wake up singing. I sing in the shower. The change in mood it can create is magical.”

So no wonder nine of the residents there have found harmony in practising a tune or two, meeting once a week in the communal lounge where they sing everything from Nat King Cole to songs from Australian folk group, The Seekers. 

Jean used to play badminton for Essex. A keen sportswoman she would go skiing every winter in Austria and was involved in many different sports clubs. Ten years ago however she was involved in an unfortunate car accident which led to her leg being amputated and requiring a wheelchair.

Jean explains: “I went from being extremely active and independent to all of sudden having to get used to a very different type of life.

Moving to Chinnerys Court has been a wonderful way of meeting new people. I along with another lady there were talking, and we wondered if we could get a singing group going with the other residents. 

“For many this is the first time they have sung since their school days. A lot of people say ‘oh I can’t sing’, but they can!

“It’s such a fantastic way for people to socialise and as I can no longer do my sport, it gives me another way to express myself.” 

Ranging in age from 70 to 92, Jean is in charge of organising what the group sings each week, and she says she tries to choose “upbeat songs that are easy to sing”, but that every now and then she introduces new songs as she says “it helps to get our minds and memories working.”

The only male member of the group, Gerald Tildesley, 80, says: “I think it’s unlikely we’re going to take the musical world by storm anytime soon, but we are an enthusiastic bunch who enjoy our singing, and this adds to the wonderful community spirit that is Chinnerys Court.”

McCarthy Stone Retirement Living and Retirement Living Plus developments are designed for independent living, offering low maintenance apartments in prime locations to those over the age of 60.  

Lorraine Walsh, House Manager at Chinnerys Court, commented: “Every week the songs, laughter, and the smiles in the lounge from our residents is a real delight to see. I even secretly join in from the office from time to time.”

At Calico Court in Glossop, Jill Butt is one McCarthy Stone resident who is embracing the season of giving. Closely involved with her local church, each year she prepares boxes for Operation Christmas Child. This year Jill along with the contribution of other residents, has managed to donate 20 shoeboxes filled with items to help orphaned children abroad.  

Over at Park House, a McCarthy Stone Retirement Living Plus development in Hitchin, there is also a choir. 30 strong homeowners are led by choir master Audrey Jenkins who dedicates her time and energy as well as being the group’s pianist. The choir has a regular sing off event with the local community which has proven to be very popular. 

Similarly, in the Midlands at Francis Court in Worcester, there is a choir of 9 residents along with House Manager Helen Hughes, ranging in age from 60 to 91 years old. Ray Woodfield, a retired Royal Marine and composer leads the group where they have put on performances for residents of other McCarthy Stone developments in the past. This year, the group performed at the local leisure centre and were asked to perform again which Helen says “took them all by surprise.”

Sandra Colston, Musical Director and singing expert comments: “Singing is accessible for everyone, including all ages, abilities and backgrounds.

“Singing within a group can also help you feel part of a team. Many of my choir singers start the rehearsal after a bad day yet leave bouncing on a high. They often tell me that they wish they could bottle the feeling!

“Confidence is usually the main issue in most keen singers I meet. But, once you overcome this, you’ll open a world of opportunity and discover a voice you didn't realise you could produce. As a Choir Director, I have seen the shyest of people turn around within months. They become visibly less fearful and much more positive.”McCarthy Stone hold regular singing events across its developments and bring community and school choirs into developments to encourage different generations to sing together.

With the social aspect and the obvious health benefits of singing for retirees, this could be the ideal time to start. For more information, please call: 0800 201 4811.