Many aspiring senior singers have the misplaced notion that they are “too old to learn to sing”. At a time when U3A (The University of the Third Age) is promoting learning for the elderly, and articles are written to encourage older people to keep their brains active, surely there can be no reason that older people should not take voice lessons.
It is true that the body changes with age, as hormone levels deplete, cartilage loses its pliability and “ossifies” into bone, vocal folds atrophy and thin, the muscles of the larynx lose elasticity and atrophy. But experts in “aging” continue to urge us to remain active … to “use it or lose it”.
Over the years, there was a general belief that older singers developed vocal issues and faults merely because they were older. In the majority of cases, however, that is just untrue. Consider:
- A singer who commits to formal voice training in their younger years, and develops good technique (particularly a sound breathing technique) will, with regular practice and
occasional “check-ups”, maintain that technique throughout their singing life;
- Many wonderful singers are happy to do little more than sing in their church choir, attending weekly rehearsals and working towards Sunday worship services. Their technique may stand them in good stead for many years but if they do little more than sing at rehearsals and weekly services, the muscles which support singing lose tone and faults, such as the dreaded “wobble” (the scourge of many a choir director), begin to emerge.
So what is the answer to problems like this?
- Some studies have suggested that voice changes in old age are often more closely related to disease than to the physiological processes of aging, so taking good care of your body’s health could be instrumental in maintaining a great voice as you age;
- Because muscles atrophy and lose tone with aging, regular aerobic and muscle strengthening exercises can arrest and perhaps even reverse this trend;
- Maintaining the tone of the muscles associated with singing, through daily vocal and breathing exercises will prolong the best elements of technique:
- If you are not already singing in a choir, join one. Singing regularly with like-minded, enthusiastic choristers is motivating and great fun;
- Take singing lessons with a teacher who understands your situation, is supportive of your goals and will work with you to develop your technique.
There is no doubt that learning to sing well in old age can be healthy for both physical and psychological reasons. Of course, it would be unrealistic to expect your voice to behave as it did in your youth so expecting to sing a high C like you once could would be unrealistic. But by continuously exercising the instrument, your singing voice will get better with practice and you’ll have a great time doing it!