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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

A song can warm the spirit and combat isolation

This feature is about 9 years old

Shona Partridge of The Senior Singers encourages older people to find their singing voice

I discovered my voice late in life. My husband always said I should join a choir but for the best part of 30 years I honestly thought he was winding me up.

It was until I took early retirement and I was at a loss for something to do that I responded to advert in a community centre in Edinburgh’s Sighthill looking for “singers of all abilities.”

That was three years ago and ever since the first meeting I’ve been taking part in the group religiously, to the extent I’m now both treasurer and part-time secretary.

The Senior Singers visit sheltered housing complexes – both council and housing association-run – and basically have a sing-along with the residents.

It’s an incredible motivator for older people. We are a group of 12 but usually just six of us visit a home at the one time.

We encourage the residents to join in. We give out song sheets and even those who aren’t used to singing give it a go.

It can be such an uplifting experience that our popularity has exceeded our expectations. We now have a waiting list of homes requesting our services. Even social workers refer us now.

We never envisaged we’d become as popular as fast. The founding member, Jennifer Murphy, created the group after her mother moved to sheltered accommodation. She took part in an amateur choir in Livingstone and she recruited a few of the members to visit other homes in the area.

We’ve never had any problems recruiting eager volunteers. As we are all mostly retired it gives us something to do and many members are able to devote a good bit of their time to the group.

Some like myself spend a fair bit of time on the administration side of things – organising the visitis and seeing who’s available. It might sound rather mundane but it’s a necessary evil to make sure we remain focused.

The main motivator of it all is that it brings people together. Older people often find themselves isolated, even in sheltered housing where the emphasis is on the social side of things.

With a bit of encouragement however they turn up to our singalongs and before they know it are singing along with us.

The older we get the less we are inhibited. Many people are closet singers but never had the confidence to do it. Until, that is, they reach their senior years and suddenly the find a new lease of life.

We also have new members join the group from sheltered housing. Jeanette, our newest member, has been a revelation. She sang amateur opera from her teens until she was 40 then never sang after that following the death of her husband.

She was gently persuaded to join us and her voice has lifted the entire troupe – she’s absolutely fantastic and her voice is incredible, even at 78 years old.

It’s not all about old songs though. We’ll sing anything, within reason. We do theme our gigs – we’ll have themed events on Remembrance Sunday, St Andrews and St Patricks Day etc. That way everyone can join in.

We’ve got a big event at the Usher Hall in September where over a hundred choirs will be singing together. The event is great because it has given us all a focus, something to look forward to.

It is also recognition that what we do is meaningful to older people. At the end of the day it’s all about fun – what’s life if you can’t have that?