Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Older People in a Community Gospel Choir: Musical Engagement and Social Connection

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Older People in a Community Gospel Choir: Musical Engagement and Social Connection

Article excerpt

Introduction

Globally large numbers of older people participate in singing and in choirs. Current research confirms that engaging in arts activities such as choirs and vocal ensembles contributes to a sense of well-being amongst older people (Fung & Lehmberg, 2016; Lee, Davidson Krause, 2016). It is noted that there is "currently a paucity of prospective research from the participant perspective" (Skingley, Martin, & Clift, 2015, p. 1) and this present qualitative study gives voice to participants and addresses a gap in the research through an Australian lens. Active participation in a choir offers older people opportunities to share music making both within the group and in the wider community, and provides fulfilling leisure activities (Arai & Pedlar, 2003; Skingley & Bungay, 2010). There is general consensus amongst researchers that choir membership can offer participants a sense of purpose, belonging, and community. Participation provides opportunities for collaboration and building social cohesion, the development of a sense of individual autonomy and empowerment, and personal feeling of being valued by the immediate and wider community (Creech et al., 2014; Jacob, Guptill, & Sumsion, 2009; Specker, 2014). Being a member of a choir can facilitate the forming and maintenance of friendships that offer social support and the formation of group identity (Bailey & Davidson, 2005; Stewart & Lonsdale, 2016).

Many older adults want to remain active and engaged and seek learning opportunities for personal satisfaction and growth (Gilmour, 2012; Narushima, Liu, & Diestelkamp, 2013; Wiesmann & Hannich, 2008). Research has found that music engagement can aid life-long learning (Cruce & Hillman, 2012; Hays & Minichiello, 2005a; Lee, 2013; Southcott, 2014; Talmage et al., 2015). Lifelong learners seek opportunities for aesthetic and cognitive growth, personal development, and community engagement which can all be found in community singing groups. Individual members of a community choir become part of a larger group or collective and through their engagement form "spaces for the social self and civic engagement to emerge" (Arai & Pedlar, 2003, p. 188). There is a reciprocal relationship between social cohesion and social outcomes and as "individuals invest in their own cultural and human capital and participate in various types of cultural events and activities, they also appear to increase the social capital within their communities" (Jeannotte, 2003, p. 46). Singing in community choir is an effective way to develop personal and musical agency that can foster shared activity that responds to social justice, community involvement and outreach (Joseph, 2015). Building on the research literature and addressing the gap in both Australian studies and those that concern secular gospel choirs, we posed the following research question: How do older Australians understand their experiences as members of a gospel community choir?

This research is situated in Australia where the Australian Government prioritizes the promotion and maintenance of good health and well-being for all. It is noted that in Australia average life expectancies have increased markedly over recent decades with people now expected to live longer and healthier lives, and remain active in the community (Australian Government, 2016). Over the past two decades the proportion of the Australian population aged 65+ has increased from 11.9 per cent to 15 per cent. It is expected that this trend will continue (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2016). There is a significant projected increase in the number of people aged 65+ and aged 85+. When compared to many OECD countries, Australia requires "major shifts in cultural expectations and attitudes about ageing... to respond constructively, at both an individual and population level" (Australian Government, 2016). Successful and "productive ageing recognises the contribution of older people to economic, social and cultural growth and helps build a sustainable community" (Davis, Crothers, Grant, Young & Smith, 2012, p. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.