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Topic: Magic for elderly
Message: Posted by: Gorlzax (Aug 23, 2016 05:17AM)
I was today volunteering at my local elderly home and doing some magic for them. I learned a lot today. I had a table at one of their events and tried to get people to stop and see some magic. Most of it went very well but I really realised how most of the time the routine needs to be really simple and also quite short, especially when performing for older people and in a place where there is quite a lot of things happening.

And I realized the great benefit of scripting. Because I have good scripts for every effect I could edit them quickly while I was acctually doing the effect.

Good learning experience that I wanted to share.

Message: Posted by: Julie (Aug 23, 2016 04:24PM)

I don't think your learning experience is limited to "the elderly". There are some pretty sharp senior citizens lurking around a corner every now and then. :)

As you gain more real world experience you'll find short and to the point is one of the keys to your performing success in similar (not necessarily elderly) situations.

Your ability to hold a crowd is in direct proportion to how entertaining YOU are.

Grandma Julie
Message: Posted by: Gorlzax (Aug 23, 2016 05:12PM)
Julie, you are absolutely right - there are and there were at my gig really sharp seniors. I don't even think it's about their lack of sharpness, I'd rather say they were quite quick to start talking to each others or me or so something else. I felt their focus was more wandering than with younger audiences I have performed. Many times I, after a trick just listened to all the stories that they wanted to share with me and not try to get another trick in there.

But also, it is true I am not very experienced magician, so this might not be a senior thing at all, I will learn the differences in time.

But this short and to the point became much clearer to me. Especially in a strolling or similar situation where the audience isn't sitting down and really seeing a show of yours. I for example have my own version of chigaco opener and the script for it is longer than what I did today. Today I just focused more to the trick not the story so much.
Message: Posted by: RichLucas (Sep 18, 2016 02:39PM)
I am getting ready, practicing for a performance at the clinic "Life At Lourdes" for elderly who are in need of physical help, or those who just want a place to share company. I hope that I don't "blow it" 'cause I am a member there and will have to face everyone on a daily basis.

Any tips?

All help is appreciated.

Rich Lucas
Message: Posted by: Gorlzax (Sep 20, 2016 03:20PM)
Tips that I can give are basically those I just discovered myself. Its good to keep the tricks short or so that you can end them in many places. Also, I became aware that its important to choose your moments, when to do a trick and when just to say a nice "hello, how are you doing" and if the person doesn't seem ready or willing to be in contact with you then don't push the river, just smile and nod.

Make it easy and fun for them and yourself.

These are my two cents. 😊
Message: Posted by: Coolmanclyde (Nov 1, 2016 11:21PM)
I have a goal set to be able to perform at senior home or kids hospital by next March. Reading your experience is helpful; have you performed any more since posting? Any other helpful hints?

What sort of tricks did you perform? Card? Coin? Impromptu object? Rope?
Message: Posted by: plink (Nov 3, 2016 04:57AM)
Used to do a lot of "nursing" homes with a full Gospel program. Two things I found out- sponge balls in their hand gets a better reaction than any stage effect. And used to take my two (cute, little) daughters that made the folks very happy. Had to take an ego pill on that one.
Message: Posted by: Russo (Nov 3, 2016 10:56AM)
May have mentioned this befor- A while back, Entertained at 'Helen Hays Hospital', in Rockland New York. All Children, quite a few "Basket Cases'(that is, NO limbs)- But several times I put an effect on their belly (such as the 20th century silks-etc.)They were delighted- as were the Nurses- it was a very gratifying experience. Handicapped LOVE it when you DO include them. Also the Elderly do appreciate Gospel Programs- Ralph(russo)Rousseau
Message: Posted by: Coolmanclyde (Nov 3, 2016 11:51PM)
Thanks for the tips on the elderly and/or handicapped, I'll keep these in mind. I currently don't have a sponge ball routine so I might need to invest some time into that one.

Hoping the OP will come and answer my question about what he specifically performs.
Message: Posted by: AndreOng1 (Nov 12, 2016 12:52PM)
Volunteer magic performance its the best cause most of the time people are extra appreciative and willing to be involve.
In my first show long time ago, I started misers dream and professors nightmare.
They absolutely loved how I present it. I will motivated me to perform more magic show early on.
Message: Posted by: Perero (Nov 24, 2016 11:25PM)
I have performed for elder people a few times and have always get a really warm welcome and high recomendation after the show. But like Gorlzax 'says' the focus is a little problem, and what ever you do don't rush...i had to do the same money trick 3-4 times becouse they did'nt follow, and they wanted to see it again, and again with the big eyes and discussions after about making money like I did. They always love when spoken to, no rush and speaking clearily and loud.
Money seems to to work very well, and very visual tricks.i always finnish with som heavy tricks with sleight of hand for the staff and volounter from the audience...the reason is to leave a deep impression, and proffessionality, and knowledge that I CAN do'heavy' stuff and not only be funny and tell funny stories.
I like to perform for elder's and try to take the time to listen after the show, of all the anecdotes and there stories.
Message: Posted by: MAV (Dec 4, 2016 10:37PM)
One of my favorite lessons that I learned while performing for seniors was that they seem a bit more reluctant to volunteer to come on stage, or up front with you. As a result, on my first time with seniors I did not get a chance to use some of my patter and interact with the audience. Thus my scheduled 45 minute performance lasted only about 35 minutes. The fun thing that I remember is that there was this little ole blue haired lady in a wheelchair in the back of the room. I asked her if she liked the show. She said, "yes, and I am so glad you finished before 6:30 because I can still go back to my room and watch Wheel of Fortune." And with that she spun her wheelchair around and scooted down the hall. I laugh to myself every time I think of that occasion.
Message: Posted by: Ed_Millis (Dec 5, 2016 08:41AM)
If you're "on stage" in front of a group, small and quick doesn't cut it. You have to compensate for fading eyes and ears.

If this is a care facility, don't ask them to remember complicated plots. Some may not even remember the card they picked.

Give them great respect - do not make them the butt of the joke.

Be careful asking what they thought of the magic - they will tell you!!

Message: Posted by: MAV (Dec 6, 2016 09:07PM)
You are right Ed! One advantage I have working with seniors is that I am one myself. It does make a difference. My wife also will accompany me at times to substitute as a volunteer in case I can't get one from the audience. Last time was close to Halloween and she dressed as Carmen Miranda. It was certainly age appropriate for the group as one elderly man flirted with her the whole time, Ha!!!
Message: Posted by: RitalDino (Dec 21, 2016 02:32PM)
One thing I noticed when working for this type of crowd (I mean prompt to digression, not old folks in particular) is not necessarily to shorten the material, but to have routines with different phases. This way I can stop the routine after a phase to have them discuss or interact and pick up where I left off. Of course it brings other problems such as trust in the fairness of your moves. When people stop paying attention, you can virtually do anything, so the fairness must be as complete as possible. Set the deck on the table when they are reacting, or put the balls on the cups in between two phases so that when you start again, no one asks you what was that weird move you did when they where talking.

Just a thought, though, and it might cause you problems you find bigger than just shortening your material. Biggest advantage is that you make time for interaction rather than try to cope with it.

Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Dec 21, 2016 03:16PM)
On the road, doing school assemblies, I was often booked for an evening 'parlor' show in nursing homes.

I did my elementary school program. If an audience assistant was needed, I used one of the nurses. That worked very well.

The biggest "rule" is K I S M I F ! (Keep It Simple, Make It Fun!) I've had elderly gentlemen laugh so hard that they fell off their chairs!

The "other rule" is COMMUNICATE! (Talk WITH them, not, AT, or TO them!

I'm 85, and, retired from 50 years on the road, and, I still do an occasional gig.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Dec 21, 2016 03:19PM)
P.S. Sometimes, the nursing home would invite the grand children of the elderly folks. The old timers really enjoyed watching the children enjoy the show.
Message: Posted by: RitalDino (Dec 22, 2016 09:27AM)
As always, M. Oslund has got simple advices but the best possible ones!
Message: Posted by: jcrabtree2007 (Jan 31, 2017 12:07AM)
Dick, as usual, gives great advice here.
I do nursing homes as volunteer work. My charge to the nursing facility is that they must advertise in their news letters to the families of their residents. I advertise as a "Children's Show" and focus my magic on entertaining the kids.
Honestly, the old folks just appreciate being entertained and having someone spend some time with them. But half of them will fall asleep or lose interest in the show. But no fill that hall with a bunch of little kids and you have created the best event of the year for the seniors. They will spend more time watching the children's reactions to your tricks than watching the tricks themselves.
Just be for-warned that the kids will be the stars of those show (fine with me- they are in my shows anyways). Its also a great way to get families to visit their grandma.
Message: Posted by: Dick Oslund (Jan 31, 2017 06:29PM)
Thanks all, for your very kind comments.

Many times, the nursing home would invite the grand children of the inhabitants. That made my job much easier, as many have noted above, the grandmas, and grandpas, really enjoyed watching the way the kids enjoyed the show.

The youngsters are "always ready" to be involved in the show.
Message: Posted by: hypnoman1 (May 28, 2018 01:17PM)
One of my favorite lessons that I learned while performing for seniors was that they seem a bit more reluctant to volunteer to come on stage, or up front with you. As a result, on my first time with seniors I did not get a chance to use some of my patter and interact with the audience. Thus my scheduled 45 minute performance lasted only about 35 minutes. The fun thing that I remember is that there was this little ole blue haired lady in a wheelchair in the back of the room. I asked her if she liked the show. She said, "yes, and I am so glad you finished before 6:30 because I can still go back to my room and watch Wheel of Fortune." And with that she spun her wheelchair around and scooted down the hall. I laugh to myself every time I think of that occasion.

I just finished working at a senior living and had a similar experience. My suggestions are to gain there confidence immediately. They will test you but once you get over the awkwardness you will have friends for life! It can also be one of the most fun events you will ever have! I know it was for me!
Message: Posted by: LightningRod (Apr 1, 2019 09:59PM)
In doing magic at an old folks' home, I have a couple tips:
1) figure out the character of the audience... are they REALLY old and incapacitated/infirm, or are they in an "assisted living" sort of place where they are in more of a dormitory environment (their own apartments but share common eating area and living space). Once you know the character of your crowd, you can choose illusions to fit the bill.
2) once I did a show for a mixed gender crowd, but found out early that 2/3 of them were women. So I changed up my agenda to include more things the ladies could relate to (traditionally female interest areas for 1940s-1950s Moms); it was a hit. the biggest was the gag with the change bag that revealed two ropes tide in the middle.
3) get a history on the residents if you can. One nursing home I visited was predominantly veterans (by a huge margin). I switched up the show to include patriotic themed effects (mismade flag and that sort of schtick). Vets love it when you talk their language; and I don't mean trite phrases like "thank you for your service" -- go hang around a VFW Post bar and see what the old guys are talking about and maybe engage them in conversation about their experiences. You'll find commonalities you can work into your show. WACs, WAVs, and nurses are always a hit, and so is picking on the Marines (they're the only service that is used to it -- and the only ones who are tough enough to take it and still laugh, too!). Being able to use a little bit of their slang and jargon (properly) will endear them to your performance as well.
- LRod
- LRod
Message: Posted by: Magical Moments (Apr 9, 2019 01:40PM)
I find that if your elderly audience is one consisting of card players, then card tricks is the way to go. They will appreciate them because they relate to playing cards.

If your audience is mainly women, I suggest silk magic because they will appreciate the colorful visuals.

You want to keep the routine simple and each effect brief for obvious reasons.

May I suggest that before you determine what you will perform, it is best to ask the coordinator questions so you know your audience ahead of time.

The key is to have a successful outing and then reap the reward of knowing that you caused a group of elderly folks to enjoy themselves.

My statements above are not revolutionary but suitable as an outline for a practical approach.
Message: Posted by: Woodini (Oct 16, 2019 08:32AM)
I spend a lot of time at assisted living, nursing, and memory care facilities. Magic for elderly people is really quite different from the general public. Also, there is a big difference between assisted living, nursing, and memory care residents. Each group has differing requirements and limitations. Overall, I find the residents require a simpler form of presentation, i.e. nothing too complicated. In a way it is very much like children's magic, except the themes are grown-up themes, not children's themes.

Memory care (dementia) residents are best entertained by motion and activity - anything that will keep their attention, activity in general. They will not remember nor understand what is happening at the beginning when you get to the end. But, they in general love activity. Expect no audience participation. Also, be ready for verbal and physical outbursts during your presentation.

Nursing care has all sorts of mental levels and physical limitations. This is perhaps the hardest. You have to address everything from dementia to severe physical limitations. There will be some that can follow what you do and some that are simply watching the show with the sound turned down.

Assisted living residents will provide your best audience participation, although they may be slow to understand. Remember, they are not children; they have grownup thoughts. They may be confused, but they are not stupid.

Regardless of which group you are addressing, there are some general guidelines:
1. Don't expect many, if any, to join you on stage.
2. Do not expect them to remember anything, especially a chosen card.
3. Keep it simple, nothing too complicated to think about.
4. Use large props; they can't see well.
5. Talk loud; they can't hear well.
6. They think grownup thoughts.
7. Their understanding of the world is from 50 years ago. No modern stuff, i.e. cell phones, etc.
8. Know which group you are addressing.

Helping the elderly is very rewarding on a personal level. Remember that you adding something special to an otherwise day in/day out existence.
Message: Posted by: walidosama (Dec 6, 2019 04:02AM)
Yes that true I did perform magic to old ppl before and I learned there that the script is more important than the trick itself
Message: Posted by: Mindpro (Dec 7, 2019 05:23AM)
The first rule of thumb is not to address them as or call them "old people!"
Message: Posted by: wulfiesmith (Jan 22, 2020 03:09PM)
Animal production
Message: Posted by: dbaltes1520 (Dec 8, 2020 10:08AM)
Just reading through this discussion, and appreciate all the helpful hints and advice for my senior assisted and independent living groups. I agree - get to know the audience, smile a lot, listen - all these people want is someone to hear them once in a while. Ask a few questions and use the answers to lead into a little act. I have had great luck in finding the one "card" in the group that everyone knows is a character and he/she is the one who gets all the laughter going especially in a follow-me type of trick - cards and the like.
Message: Posted by: vincentmusician (Apr 2, 2021 08:05PM)
I have performed at Seniors homes many times. Reading Dick's comments I also got lucky and had someone bring their Grand Daughter who ended up being perfect for a few of my routines. Yes, many do not want to volunteer. So I have a Magic to Music segment added in my Show. I just talk to them like they are friends and we are having a good time. I enjoy performing for older audiences.
Message: Posted by: Fromentum (Sep 19, 2021 05:53AM)
Amazing Thread. Really helpfull tips and details.
Message: Posted by: gregg webb (Sep 22, 2021 04:57PM)
One thing to try to remember when doing free shows...tell whoever you do the show for to please not tell people it was free. And hand out some cards afterwards. If someone hears that you did the show for free, just tell them that you do certain shows for benefits...nursing homes, children's hospitals, etc. but most groups have a budget for entertainment so you charge for those.
Message: Posted by: MysteroMagic (Mar 5, 2022 11:05AM)
There is so much good information. I just wish I had this type of resource 35 years ago.
Message: Posted by: Russo (Mar 24, 2022 09:32AM)
At 12, started doing shows to provide a little extra $ for Mom, Sis and self, as we were a Welfare family (Dad gone). When I was 16, was asked to entertain at a Hospital, free of course. It was a Girls Ward. Taking my Puppet Bed side to Bed side, met a real cute Girl (15). Asked to write, We did. When she was well, we dated for 3 years- Married ( now, a '63' Blessed Years, when asked how we met- we said, "In Bed" though, when we Married, we both were Virgin) >"IT's MAGIC" <. With Magic as an Ad-Vocation (Jobs paid , Dr.s, Ins. Vacations -etc,) Anna became my Assistant for OUR 'Illusion' Show. Later she developed her own Acts as we became very busy (still always an Ad-Vocation).We also did many (True Charity) Free shows for Elderly, Kids. etc. The LORD gave us (YOU and I) the ability - So Share it. Ralph ROUSSEAU (Russo)