Lund University Leads Research Project On Aging Voices

By Nicole Kuchta

Pontus Wiegert and his colleagues at Lund University will lead a research project on aging voices, initiated by The Swedish Union of Professional Musicians (Symf) and Göteborg Opera in collaboration with Malmö Opera and the Royal Swedish Opera.

It is well-known that the degree of voice deterioration among aging persons can vary significantly, but no research has been conducted to conclusively explain why this is so. This study aims to address and hopefully answer such questions as: “Which factors have [a] negative impact on professional opera singers’ voices and how can damage be prevented so that voices can remain healthy in the later stages of a singers’ career?”

The research project is significant now as singers are increasingly expected to postpone retirement. In 2014, the Swedish government pushed the retirement age for singers from 52 to 65 years old, “placing new demands on work environment and on the knowledge of aging voices which has become a challenge for employers, employees, and unions.”

Anna-Karin Simlund, deputy chair of Symf, sums up the issue at hand: “A lack of knowledge and research on how to prevent and rehabilitate age-related voice changes and how we can create conditions for sustainable professional life has meant that singers today have been forced to leave the industry.”

In addition to benefitting opera singers, the findings of this project may benefit those in other voice-dependent professions, who comprise a third of the workforce in Sweden. The ultimate goal of the project is to extend the professional lives of anyone who depends of their voice to maintain their livelihood.