Favorite Senior Citizen Songs
Songs that senior citizens in the United States enjoy singing along to are generally those that evoke memories of their younger years. These songs, which they often have memorized, tend to be favorites because seniors are able to easily recall the lyrics which allows them to participate in sing alongs. A list of 100 of the most popular senior citizen sing along songs has been compiled and presented below, along with a deeper analysis of what makes a song a favorite with older American adults.
To select 100 of the most popular sing along songs favored by senior citizens in the United States, I relied on three experts who have been creating musical compilations for older adults for many years. The first 26 songs are from Melodic Memories, a company that provides sing alongs for seniors. The site says it offers "sing along music for seniors that you can play over and over again as pleasant background music, use in a music program, for therapy, or just a good ol' sing along."
The next 25 songs are from ElderSong, a publishing company that has specialized in publishing "creative activity material for older adults" since 1985. It is a distributor of "books, videos, and recordings for activity directors, recreation and creative arts therapists, occupational and rehab therapists, and other caregivers who work with older adults."
The final 49 songs are from Roger Chartier's website SeniorEntertainer. Chartier is a "seniors entertainer" and provides "musical entertainment for seniors." He is a "full time musician/vocalist/ humorist/ entertainer, who has performed at many, many senior facilities in the southeastern New England area." As he has been performing for senior citizens since 1966, it is my belief that Chartier is an expert in selecting the most popular sing along songs for older adults. Although Chartier has a repertoire of over 500 songs, I only chose those that would resonate with the current population of adults age 65 and older. This means that I excluded more modern songs that might be popular with a slightly younger population.
Please note that these songs are in no particular order. Although many of the first 26 songs appeared on subsequent lists, I was careful to cull them to ensure no song appears more than once on the final list of 100. In addition, some sources are older than the Wonder guideline of 24 months due to the fact that the songs chosen have been favorites of current senior citizens for many decades. I was also careful to exclude religious songs as requested.
WHAT MAKES A song popular with senior citizens
While there is no preexisting information that explains what makes a song popular with senior citizens in the United States, we can use what information that does exist to make inferences as to how songs become favorites. The consensus among experts is that songs become popular when they are played repetitively and listeners have the opportunity to memorize the lyrics. In fact, one critical component of favorite sing alongs is that the "words are easily comprehended." Older songs from the early part of the 20th century have clear lyrics that are easily memorized. This makes them memorable for seniors, who have likely heard these songs regularly since childhood.
This connection to their youth is another reason why some songs remain popular with senior citizens. DailyCaring, a website that provides resources to senior caregivers, says, "another benefit is that music helps people reminisce and go back and relate to emotions and experiences." For this reason, many of the songs that made the list of 100 are those that seniors remember hearing when they were growing up. In fact, Carefect Homecare Services observes that "seniors are more likely to enjoy music from their generation than they would be to enjoy today’s hits... Many seniors will likely remember their favorite artists from the past during their teen and young adult years but they probably will not recognize today’s popular artists and be able to enjoy their music." As such, it is logical to infer that some songs that are popular with senior citizens are favorites simply because they remember them.
This notion is supported by the fact that many music therapists have noticed that "music can help seniors process their thoughts and maintain memories. For those who suffer dementia, music from their childhood or young adult years has proven efficacious in obtaining a positive response even when the person can no longer communicate." Moreover, AgingCare states that "music is particularly beneficial for people struggling with memory loss because it’s easier for them to access the memory of a melody than to recall a person’s name or a past event. The memory of the song stays with them much longer than regular memories... Music and memory are intimately intertwined," which explains why the sources that supplied the 100 songs on this list indicate they are popular at nursing homes, retirement homes, and other long-term care facilities that are primarily inhabited by older adults.
100 POPULAR non-religious sing along songs for senior citizens
1. It's a Long Way to Tipperary
2. Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?
3. My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
4. Danny Boy
7. Put On Your Old Grey Bonnet
11. Ain't We Got Fun
12. Billy Boy
14. Side By Side
16. Down By the Old Mill Stream
17. If You Were the Only Girl
18. School Days
21. Old Black Joe
22. Lilli Marlene
24. I Want a Girl
25. Daisy! Daisy!
33. Hail! Hail! The Gang's All Here
34. I Love You Truly
35. I Wonder Who's Kissing Her Now
39. Oh! How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning
41. Over There
42. Red River Valley
45. Take Me Out to the Ballgame
52. A Hot Time in the Old Town
54. Ain't She Sweet
55. Alabama Jubilee
58. Baby Face
61. Bill Bailey
62. Buffalo Gals
64. By the Light of the Silvery Moon
66. Bye Bye Blues
68. Camptown Races
74. Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree
75. Good Night Irene
77. Hello Dolly
78. How Much is That Doggie in the Window
80. If You're Happy and You Know It
81. In the Good Old Summertime
82. I've Been Working on the Railroad
83. Little Brown Jug
84. Me and My Shadow
85. Moonlight Bay
87. Oh Suzanna
88. Old Folks at Home (Swanee River)
92. Show Me the Way to go Home
93. Sittin' on Top of the World
96. Anchors Aweigh
99. Over There
The 100 popular sing along songs listed here are likely favorites with senior citizens because they have lyrics that are easy to remember and they evoke memories from their childhood. Research has shown that songs that have been played over and over again often become popular simply because senior citizens remember the words and associate the tunes with positive memories in their past.