Tunes help you breathe more easily

I guess singing, joining a band or playing the piano are the best ways to make it to 100

Peter Edgerton

'Goodbye, Maria! Take note, everybody, take note."

The nurse at the village health centre was quite clearly beaming from ear to ear beneath his mask as he sent his octogenarian patient on her way and advised the assembled queue of assorted patients that they'd do well to follow her lead in terms of looking after themselves. A couple of cigarettes were furtively flicked to the ground by their owners, presumably in tribute, and Maria headed home while my thoughts turned to advancing years in general and, more specifically, the Rolling Stones.

The old boys - Mick 'n' Keef are both currently 78 - kicked off their Sixty tour in Madrid last week, celebrating six decades of touring. Jagger said something about maybe sitting on a stool and singing all the band's ballads in the style of Perry Como but we think he was joking.

Meanwhile, Paul McCartney has just been touring North America and will play Glastonbury festival at the end of June. He'll be 80 by then. What is it that keeps these chaps going? In Paul's case it might be the veggie burgers, I suppose, whereas Mick's got a five-year-old child to think about. It may also be pertinent that Keith is reported to have given up smoking and drinking over the last couple years but that's a bit like driving all the way from Santiago de Compostela to Malaga at 200 km per hour and then slowing to 20 km per hour when you reach the Alameda Principal. Still, he's made it thus far and it's probably fair to say that not many veggie burgers were involved in his case.

Actually, I have a feeling it's the music itself which encourages such longevity. Singing has been proved to reduce stress (although it could be argued that it transfers stress to the listeners in some notable cases). Studies have also shown that a heartfelt warble strengthens the immune system and lung function as well as improving memory and overall mental health. Not bad for a tum-tee-tum from time to time, or as Neil Diamond put it in his seminal hit Cracklin' Rosie, "Don't need to say please to no man for a happy tune."

So, if we want to live a long and healthy life, it appears we can put away our health foods and vitamin supplements and yoga mats and bring out the songbooks and the parlour pianos.

I bet Maria sings Magic Moments in the shower.