Part 1 - Getting your foot in the door to sing to senior adults
Part 2 - Treat the first ttime to sing to senior adults as an audition.
Part 3 - The basic equipment you need to bring with you.
Part 4 - Giving senior adults the chance to experience emotion through music.
Part 5 - The "Do's and Don'ts" when singing to senior adults.
OK . . . you've made a contact, gone and introduced yourself, and you've been placed on the calendar of upcoming events! Congratulations.
Now what do you do? Well before you go any further, please understand that singing to senior adults is NOT ABOUT YOU! It's ALL ABOUT WHO YOU ARE SINGING TO!!!!!
Sorry for the caps, but I wanted to make a point (and no, I wasn't yelling).
I have certain songs that I love to sing. I have an iPad (more on that later in the series) with the words and guitar chords to over 400 songs I've sung to senior adults over many years. That's all well and good. However, the songs you sing to senior adults need to be the songs that they want to hear and like to hear, or songs that are somewhat similar.
At some locations, all they wanted me to play was gospel music. At another location, they wanted Elvis songs (yeah, mostly older women . . . I can sing Elvis songs, but I don't look a thing like him). The people at another location wanted to hear mostly folk music. Some wanted show tunes.
When senior adults in a nursing home or rehab unit come to hear you sing, they are looking for an escape. They aren't living in their homes. They are usually dealing with health issues related directly to their age. Some will have short-term memory issues. Many will just plain be lonely. Learn what kind of songs they want to hear, and include as many as you can over the span of several visits. In doing so, you provide them a therapeutic time of escape from some of the things they are dealing with. Giving them a time of musical respite is a wonderful gift. The issues about life they are facing will be waiting for them. Perhaps our music helps them see their problems in a different light.
It goes without saying that irst impressions are very important, not to mention the quality of your singing and how well you play your instrument. So, here is what I have learned to do when singing for the first time, and it works for me very well.
1) I approach the first time I sing for any group as an audition, especially for senior adults. I will come prepared with several songs in various catagories . . . early rock, old country, gospel, folk, love ballads, show tunes, and even a few fun children's songs. These will be songs that I can "nail" in just about any situation.
2) I do not take requests the first time I sing. Rather, I sing to let them know that I can provide a wide selection of music. This is a program that I will be well prepared for, and it will show in the quality of the performance. My goal is that everyone will have a chance to clap their hands, tap their feet, and sing out loud at least once in the program.
3) I will take mental notes of what songs resonated with those in attendance. I look for smiles. I always made the effrot to shake hands with as many people as I can after the program. I believe that thanking the residents who came is always a good diea. During these conversations, I will listen carefully to their remarks and comments about what songs they liked best, or songs they wished I'd have performed. When I'm back in my car, I will transfer my mental notes to the little traveller's notebook I have with me at all times. Those notes then determine my lists of songs for that location that I will have ready in my iPad (again, more on that in a later post).
4) I always thank the residents for letting me sing, and ask them to let the Activity or Life Enrichment Director know if they would like me to come back again. Now normally, the staff in charge know pretty quickly if they are going to put you on the calendar on a regular basis after just a few songs. But I always ask the people to vote. I also encourage them to suggest songs I can sing "if/when" they invite me to return.
5) It may be my first time to sing, but I do make it a point to dress for the occassion. I sang for a new local group of seniors this past Saint Patrick's Day. Yes, I wore green. They were all wearing green as well!
Perhaps approaching the first time to sing as an audition might not be everyone's cup of tea. The process works for me. Tuning in to the desires and needs of the "regulars" helps improve the therapeutic quality of the program for everyone.
Treat your first time to a new group of senior adults as an audition. You will be better prepared, and in a better position to be invited back on a regular basis.
God's grace still amazes me . . . ><>