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Hitting the high notes: how opera and music can benefit retirees

The upcoming World Opera Day will be celebrated on 25th October. This auspicious day is the birthday of both Georges Bizet and Johann Strauss, composers of possibly the world’s most famous opera and operetta. World Opera Day is an awareness campaign to promote the positive impact and value of Opera for society and is backed and promoted by UNESCO and is especially poignant this year, after relentless theatre closures due to the Covid pandemic. This year it can also be seen as an opportunity to reboot and celebrate a new awakening of the arts. As active parts of society, opera houses and culture in general, can have a positive impact on health and well-being. Furthermore, it has been well documented that cultural participation is the top-most contributor to wellbeing in older age.

Music is a powerful ‘medicine’. It holds the power to reduce stress, improve symptoms of depression, and enhance productivity, among others — and, ultimately, improve a person’s quality of life. One of the most significant benefits of music for the older generation is its seemingly magical ability to improve memory. Specifically, music can stimulate feelings of wellbeing in retirees by evoking strong memories and emotions.

There is increasing evidence that leading an active, socially engaged lifestyle might even protect against cognitive decline, and the arts, like the opera, are seen as beneficial activities due to their combination of cognitive complexity and mental creativity. Studies have also shown that going to the theatre, or to a concert or to the opera, are associated with a lesser decline in cognitive function and it has been suggested that more frequent cultural engagement is associated with more of a marked beneficial effect. A further study was conducted in 2020 which revealed that traditional Chinese Opera can potentially be an effective therapy for improving the cognitive function of older adults with dementia, reducing their behavioural and psychiatric symptoms and enhancing their quality of life. A meaningful activity like attending an evening of high-quality opera with family and friends can help to overcome isolation and can broaden the horizons of older audiences, which is why Opera Holland Park continues to offer free opera tickets for those over the age of 65, those of whom have enjoyed performances earlier this year of ‘The Marriage of Figaro’ and ‘La Traviata’.

Therefore, accessibility to cultural activities like the opera, is hugely important in older age, which is why the team at LifeCare Residences, the award winning and internationally renowned retirement community operator places great emphasis on the accessibility and wide range of cultural activities – such as the opera – both onsite and offsite for all residents across all of their award-winning UK luxury retirement communities. At all LifeCare Residences’ communities, residents benefit from the services of a lifestyle co-ordinator who organises local excursions and on-site activities and functions. The teams at Battersea Place in London, Somerleigh Court in Dorchester, Dorset and Grove Place near the New Forest in Hampshire are dedicated to helping facilitate a wide array of clubs, activities and classes to get involved in – which also includes the Opera!

During the recent lockdown period at Somerleigh Court, in the heart of historic Dorchester, residents were treated to a spectacular and uplifting opera performance from John Hudson one of Britain’s most powerful and dramatic tenors and also the long-standing principal for the English National Opera, Welsh National Opera and Scottish Opera. The opera star also happens to hail from the Piddle Valley in Dorset, so he was only too delighted to make a special appearance for the residents of Somerleigh Court. The team at Somerleigh Court take great pride in providing an uplifting and supporting environment for the residents, and also appreciate the positive impact cultural pursuits can have on wellbeing, so they set about arranging the special socially distanced opera performance. Residents enjoyed prosecco and ice-cream as John gave superb renditions of opera and theatre favourites such as Puccini’s Turandot and songs from crowd pleaser, Beauty and the Beast which were met with a rapturous standing ovation.

A love of music and the Opera flows through the fabric of Battersea Place, London’s first luxury award winning retirement community as residents relish the fact that living in London provides instant access to culture and entertainment. In-house, residents enjoy the ever popular Theatre and Opera Supper Clubs and live screenings from the Royal Opera House. Past screenings have included Monteverdi’s ‘L’incoronaazione di Poppea’ and Jean Racine’s dramatisation of ‘Phédre’. There is much excitement as the hugely popular Royal Opera House live streams will return to the cinema at Battersea Place following a pandemic hiatus with Puccini’s ‘Tosca’ set to be streamed in December. The team are so thrilled to welcome back these popular productions that they are planning to recreate the sense of occasion by serving drinks and savoury nibbles during the interval. For those wanting to enjoy and absorb the feeling of ‘live’ opera, Covent Garden and The Royal Opera House is merely five miles away and is yet another reason why living at Battersea Place is so special – to have easy access to such iconic theatres and cultural landmarks – either by public transport or by limousine service.

Creative and cultural activities can be wide-reaching, and it’s been proven that accessibility to cultural and creative activities is hugely important in older age. Music in all forms is an obvious cultural activity, and does not stop at an opera performance – it extends to attending a classical musical performance, jazz performance or even playing a musical instrument. For retirees who are struggling with loneliness or looking to improve their social life, music may be just the ticket as it can help broaden social networks. By joining in with others to make or listen to music can spark discussions that improves connections with both friends and family members. You don’t have to be a die-hard opera aficionado to enjoy music and the arts – it’s a wonderful opportunity to socialise and meet up with like-minded people, which is as important, as staying socially active and feeling part of a community empowers self-esteem and a sense of self-worth.

At Grove Place in Hampshire, residents can enjoy a wide range of musical activities set up by the LifeCare Residences team. Peggy Bigglestone, who retired to Grove Place in Hampshire five years ago adds, “I feel utterly spoilt here. There is a range of activities you can try out; I am part of the choir and a ukulele club, and I go out on lots of day trips; some of my friends use the pool or the gym. There is always something interesting happening that you are welcome to join in with.” Music can improve mood and also bring back older, happy memories, it encourages socialisation and promotes overall mental and physical health.

If you would like to learn more about our offering and how we can enhance the ‘every day’ please call T. 0800 009 6950.
For those who are unable to visit in person, we are also able to offer virtual tours of our communities at your convenience.