Beyond Belief: Theatre Encourages Friendship and Senior Health

To many seniors, the thought of regular exercise may seem daunting. But with the average adult over 65 remaining sedentary for two-thirds of their day, it’s important to find a reason to get moving and prevent health complications further down the road.

Carol Holland, 85 and Marion Cowan, 92 have found a new way to have fun while staying active: singing and dancing. Both are members of Beyond Belief Senior Theatre in Novi, where seniors have the chance to shine onstage through annual musical performances.

senior woman tap dancing
Marion Cowan, 92, tap dancing for Beyond Belief Senior Theatre.

Cowan joined almost 20 years ago when the program began through the Novi Senior Center. She had loved theatre growing up in London, but stopped performing after coming to the United States as a 21-year-old mother.

“I didn’t have any time to be on the stage, though I would have liked to,” she said.

When Cowan retired from being an accountant, she underwent a hip replacement and needed a new, low-intensity activity. She knew other women who were involved in the theatre program, which made her excited to perform again and led her to join.

Soon, the program grew and became “Beyond Belief” six years ago, when Carol Holland first saw the group perform. “I went to see one of their shows and thought ‘they’re having way too much fun, I want to do that,’” she said. “I had to see what it was like.” She quickly befriended Cowan, and they soon found their way to center stage together.

senior singing
Carol Holland, 85, singing for Beyond Belief Senior Theatre.

While the two friends consider the program as a fun way to see their friends, they’re doing wonders for their health.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, keeping your brain active, exercising and frequent social interaction can lower your risk for Alzheimer’s disease. By learning music, dancing and making friends, the members of Beyond Belief are improving their health in multiple ways.

Apart from the group’s rehearsals twice a week from May to September, Cowan and Holland take road trips every Saturday with their other friends from the program and practice their songs in the car.

“It takes us a long time to remember, so it really helps,” Holland said.

two seniors singing onstage
Carol Holland and Marion Cowan

The friends also travel to a local nursing home with their pianist and have weekly sing-alongs with the patients.

“We sing all of our songs to practice and the people are very receptive,” Cowan said.

“It’s very fulfilling and it makes you feel good,” Holland said. “They appreciate it because they always ask when we’re coming back. It makes them feel better to sing with us, too.”

Research shows that singing can boost your immune system and energy levels, so it helps both the performers and the nursing home patients.

After performing for many years, both women are still going strong and plan to continue for as long as they can.

“I love it, I love the people,” Holland said. “I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have it. It’s so nice to have people who want to come hear us sing.”

They encourage any senior, regardless of age or ability, to perform with them and strongly believe in the group’s motto: “If you can talk, you can sing and if you can walk, you can dance.”

Beyond Belief Senior Theatre will be performing their annual show, called “Young at Heart” on September 20 and 21 at Novi High School. For more information, visit the organization’s Facebook page or beyondbeliefseniortheatre.com.

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Main image photo credit: Rosmarie Voegtli

Photo credit for theatre pictures: Matthew Brauer

Note: Carol Holland is the author’s grandmother.

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  1. Thank you so much for featuring Beyond Belief in your publication! You have truly captured the essence of the group and shared the impact of what Beyond Belief strives to do so very well!

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