Sharing in the Joy of Song

Choir performance engages audience under a night sky with colorful lighting; audience and singers share a sense of community.

JUST ONE YEAR INTO THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE ROYAL FREEMASONS EASTERN “WITH ONE VOICE” CHOIR, IT HAS BECOME THE CENTREPIECE OF CENTENNIAL LODGE RESIDENTS’ SOCIAL CALENDAR WITH ABOUT HALF OF ALL CUSTOMERS COMING TOGETHER WEEKLY IN SONG, WITH FAMILY, EMPLOYEES AND VOLUNTEERS.

A recent case study conducted by Swinburne University researchers reported that the Choir demonstrates the tangible benefits of a person-centred approach to care. The project, titled ‘With One Voice Social Inclusion Model’, is the brainchild of Creativity Australia a highly experienced community organisation which brings very diverse people together to sing and expand their lives; it is underpinned by a sharing and giving philosophy. The research reported that it creates social inclusion and community building outcomes such as:

  • 95% of people ‘always feeling better after choir’
  • 84% say they have made new friends or relationships
  • 81% of people experiencing improved wellbeing
  • 79% have learned new things, and
  • 71% have improved community involvement.

The ‘With One Voice’ Choir provides graduated opportunities for social participation, such as attending rehearsals as audience members or involving partners, always sensitive to an individual’s comfort level. Elders in need of memory support are able to participate as equals.

At Centennial Lodge five choir members are managing their dementia, reportedly beyond meaningful conversation. It is quite extraordinary, but all of them not only remember the repertoire of songs from their predementia lives but actively learn new songs including complicated round singing.

In this way, participation in the choir enhances residents’ socialisation with the rest of the community, a most rewarding outcome for all. Rehearsals are light-hearted and joyful. Employees and volunteers regularly dance with residents and sing to each other. A customer with advanced Parkinson’s, who can no longer sing, is assisted to joyfully march in time to the music.

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