Bupa Berwick residents are hitting all the right notes
Ella Fitzgerald once said, “The only thing better than singing is more singing.”
And that’s precisely what the residents at Bupa Berwick have been doing. In early 2023, the aged care home in Narre Warren North formed their own choir when one of the carers, Vicki, heard some of the residents singing during entertainment time.
“I realised there could be enough interest to start a singing group, so I spoke to the residents and put up some flyers to see who might be interested,” Vicki said.
Seven residents came forward at first, eager to sing together. Since then, the “Supas Bupas” has grown to 11 singers, all attending twice-weekly rehearsals where they choose the songs to practise and perform together.
Kevin, the oldest choir member at 97, was shy at first, but his confidence has grown over time. He even performed a solo at a recent concert to family and friends.
“I never thought I could sing but apparently I can!” he said. “I enjoy the choir so much, I often listen to music and think ‘I reckon the choir can sing that’. I love that it keeps my mind occupied and I have something to look forward to.”
“My most memorable moment was when I sang a solo. I was given so much encouragement from the other choir members and Vicki that it spurred me on to sing louder than ever. I’m surprised how much confidence I got from that.”
The benefits of singing can be magical, particularly for those living with dementia. There is much scientific evidence that singing can help older people remember and engage, alleviate the effects of breathing diseases, and reduce anxiety.
Ann, 79, said being in the choir has changed her life.
“Instead of sitting in my room I now have something to look forward to. I enjoy the practices, where we sing, chat and always have a laugh. I have my song book in my room and practise the songs.”
One of the more experienced members, Aileen, is a trained soprano and has performed with different groups. Now aged 90, she said the Berwick aged care home choir has given her renewed confidence.
“I hadn’t sung for over 30 years, so I was surprised that I can still reach a high C note! This was helped by the encouragement from the other members and Vicki. They give me so much confidence to be able to feel freedom with my voice,” she said.
“I get so much pleasure and joy from the choir, and am proud to be still singing and be part of something wonderful.”
It’s not just the choir members who benefit – residents who don’t yet have the confidence to perform still go to rehearsals to watch, listen and sing along.
“It’s amazing to see them supporting each other during rehearsals. They clap and cheer one another. The camaraderie is fantastic,” explained Vicki.
Jean, 96, said the response from her family and other Bupa Berwick residents has been tremendous.
“My family tells me all the time that they are proud of me, which makes me feel proud too,” she said.
“The thing that surprises me is that other people in the home are also getting so much enjoyment from us singing for them. I have other residents saying how great we sound, and I feel great knowing I’ve made someone else happy.”
To date, the Supa Bupas have performed to their fellow residents to celebrate Harmony Day, Easter, and ANZAC Day, with a special evening performance for family and friends.
Vicki said the residents and staff are bursting with pride at how far they have come.
“It has been amazing to see and hear the residents find their voices and watch their confidence grow and shine through.”
For Kevin, the experience has given him a new lease of life.
“I never thought I’d be in a choir but at the age of 97 I’ve proven to myself and others that anything is possible.”