Creativity and older adults: The story of Encore Creativity's chorale singers

Creativity and older adults: The story of Encore Creativity's chorale singers

Encore's 13th Annual Holiday Concert last year at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

This is the last newsletter and podcast of the year, and with the holidays upon us, I thought it would be fun to wrap up with something a little different and uplifting, after the awful year that was 2020.

So - how about a little holiday music from the country’s largest choral group for singers over age 55?

Encore Creativity is the nation's largest choral organization for older adults. Based in Maryland, Encore has 15 chorales and six rock and roll choruses in the metropolitan Baltimore-Washington area, as well as a chorale in New York City.

The organization is led by Jeanne Kelly, a professional vocalist, performer, teacher, conductor and music administrator who started the group in 2001. Encore got its start when Jeanne was approached by Dr. Gene Cohen, the well-known pioneer researcher on creativity and older adults. Cohen, who died in 2009, was a founder of the national movement around positive aging, and he argued against the old stereotypes that aging leads to an inevitable decline in physical and mental capacity. 

Jeanne Kelly

Cohen wanted Jeanne to start a choral group for older people as part of a landmark research project he was conducting. It would examine how older adults would be affected if they had the chance to study choral music under a professional conductor. So Jeane agreed to start a group. 

The study found a wide array of positive effects - better physical health, fewer doctor visits, less use of medication and fewer falls. And the singers reported better morale and less loneliness.

One thing led to another, and Jeanne Kelly is still at it today. Encore Creativity has grown tremendously over the years, with around 800 singers participating in more than 20 programs. Most of them are up and down the east coast, but there are some affiliated programs elsewhere. These are no-audition groups - everyone is welcome - which is amazing considering the quality you will hear in the music on the podcast.

This year, of course, the pandemic forced Encore to adapt - all of its programs went  virtual, which presented some challenges. But their work is coming to fruition with the group’s first virtual holiday concert, which Encore produced along with AARP. That debuts this evening - December 17th at Encore’s website. But it will be available on demand throughout the holidays at that web address.

On the podcast, you’ll hear excerpts from Encore’s 2019 Kennedy Center performance. I hope you’ll give it a listen - and tune in to the entire program tonight or during the holidays.

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Six Social Security fixes that should be on Biden’s agenda

President-elect Joe Biden will be plenty busy battling the pandemic when he takes office next month, and Social Security will likely not be on top of his agenda. But nudging higher reforms for Social Security, our most important retirement program, would be a very smart move.

The role of this safety net program has never been more important as the country attempts to dig out from the COVID-19 disaster. In my new Reuters column, I list six Social Security moves the new president and Congress should make.

The vaccines

Medicare will cover the cost of all FDA-approved vaccines. All Americans — whether they get their health care from Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance, or they do not have coverage — will be able to get a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost, under federal rules.

Vaccine rollout in nursing homes faces obstacles and confusion. Walgreens and CVS staff will soon begin vaccinations at tens of thousands of long-term care facilities. Some staff and residents are wary, and there are thorny issues of consent.

Trials went well, but reassuring older adults remains a challenge. The two leading coronavirus vaccines seemed to work well in elderly trial volunteers. “I just can’t understand why people are afraid,” one 95-year-old said.

Should you be worried about allergy problems? British health officials recommended that people with severe allergy reactions not be given the vaccine. Such reactions to vaccines are rare, even in people who have allergies to food or bee stings.

Facebook has overhauled its approach to harmful Covid-19 health misinformation, announcing major changes that would send a much stronger message to users who have interacted with harmful falsehoods about the virus.

Retirement security, women and COVID

Researching my recent story for The New York Times on how retirement security for women is impacted by COVID, I discovered MomsTown, a very interesting network for women that has launched a series of daily podcasts. The latest episode features RISE, a scholarship program committed to accelerating equity for moms of color. Check it out here.

Recommended reading

The Labor Department completed the Trump administration’s fiduciary rule for retirement accounts, but it likely will be revised by the new administration . . . Trump’s $200 Medicare discount card may soon be in the mail . . . How Biden could help older workers . . . Nobel laureate Robert Merton on annuities, reverse mortgages and the key design principles of good retirement . . . Scientists reassess the need for routine medical care . . . 2020 was especially deadly, and COVID wasn’t the only culprit . . . Pandemic delays regulations regarding cheaper hearing aids . . . Improving your balance to prevent falls . . . To get a good night’s sleep, you may need to make different dietary choices . . . Six predictions for retirement planning in 2021 . . . Who is to blame for the 100,000 COVID deaths in nursing homes?

Next newsletter on January 7th

The newsletter heads off now for some winter quarrantined R&R. I’ll be back with you on January 7th. Until then, I hope you have peaceful, COVID-safe holidays.


Journalist and author Mark Miller on getting retirement right - featuring downloadable guides and podcast interviews with nationally-recognized experts.