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Tate
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I realize this is a little off topic(!), but I mainly do birthday parties and so I wanted to ask this of others like myself.

I've been asked to perform at a nursing home. I know a little bit about performing for this type of venue. For example, I know that nursing homes are different from retirement homes. The audience will be less active, many wheelchair bound. They will also be less responsive. The good news is that the woman that called me said that the residents were asked what kind of entertainment they would like and they requested a magic show.

Further, I have checked the archives and found some good advice - use large colorful props, "flashy" tricks go well, keep the effects easy to understand. In other words, I can use some of the effects from my kid show without any adaptation.

Finally, HELP! Have any of you ever worked a nursing home? What was your experience like? Any suggestions for specific tricks or how to slant the performance? How long should the show last?
flourish dude
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Are you doing a show or walk around?
I asked this question awhile back because I was also asked to do a few. I did walk around at mine and they went great! Those people really enjoyed it and are very thankful. Some will not have a clue what you are doing but they still will enjoy you. Be ready for anything, some will yell at you, some will think your thier family so on...
Everytime I do one of these shows I walk away feeling great!
Nothing of the same will bring any change, take action today!
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Chrystal
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HI Tate,

Flourish Dude asked an important question as to: if its going to be walkaround or a show? My suggestion if the people that hired you are open to it is have them introduce you..perhaps do one effect for all to see then follow it by walkaround. It's been my experience that this works the best.

Due to their limited mobility many of the residents will be in wheelchairs, but will have trays attached to the front of their wheelchairs. This is a wonderful opportunity if you need a "table" to show some closeup effects.

I change very little material/props from a kids/family show to one I do for nursing homes. I've been a regular at a Hospital (Geriatrics) for 6 yrs now. The only change I've had to make is they no longer allow balloons. I'm sure you'll do well and the residents will enjoy your show.

One last suggestion: If you have a puppet, especially an animal bring it along! Always a favorite with the residents.

Good Luck! Smile
oagwood
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I've done a few nursing homes. I have found that it is best to not be moving around too quickly. You may have some nice flourishes, but save those for a different crowd. You probably won't be getting anyone up to help you so keep that in mind too.

In general the people in the homes are just happy to see anyone there, and even though you can't have them up helping you out, make a point of interacting with them.

The best responses I received were from casual conversations with the residents.

An error that I made in my first show, it was a two show deal since it was a large home. One was for the regular residents and the other was in the alzheimer ward. I don't recommend it. People started screaming for no reason and one person tripped the alarm to the door. Needless to say, I am more cautious when setting up the engagement.

oliver
Emazdad
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I've done a few nurseing homes and never again. I found that I was just entertaining the staff, the residents generally didn't know what was going on, some couldn't see me, some couldn't hear me and some didn't even know what day it was. In each case I was expected to perform in the corner of the large living room, At one I was outside the door to the launrdy room and it was like performing inside a nappy, it stank of wee. I had to collar a member of staff who was passing to assist where required and the response to anything I said and did from the residence was none existent. Well that's a bit of a lie, two people did respond to their chairs having to be moved to makle a performing area by moaning and complaining.

I even had one dear old lady sat in front of me asleep, with a bag strapped to her leg which slowly topped up as I perfomed. I was disgusted that the staff didn't bother to cover it up. not for my sake, but for the old ladies.

On the lighter side, one bloke did shout out something funny a one liner in response to something I said, unfortunatley he then repeated it every couple of minutes for the rest of the show.

I learnt 2 things,
1, unless i'm booked to entertain children at the homes open day I don't do nursing homes.
2, If I ever get to that veggie state I hope euthenasia has been legalised, these people had no life, what and who they were had gone, and they were left with little dignity and no memories.
Yours Funfully
Clive "Emazdad" Hemsley
www.emazdad.com

"Magic is a secret, without the secret there is no magic"

Remember there are only 3 types of people in the world, those that can count and those that can't.
p.b.jones
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Hi,
I always book them when the staff can bring there kids in that way I have some able and willing assistants.
Phillip
Peter Marucci
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Tate,
I've done a number of nursing homes and, if you've done kids' parties, it's not all that different.

You'll need short tricks with simple, direct plots.

Flashy and colorful materials but nothing TOO startling (fire, flash paper, bang gun, etc.).

Many patients won't be ambulatory so make arrangements with a staff member in advance if you need an assistant (the staff member can do the job; the residents will enjoy that, too).

Oliver makes a valid point, above: Avoid Alzheimer's wards if possible, for the reasons he gives.

And, while I can sympathize with Emazdad, believe me when I say that all nursing homes are not like that.

But Clive also makes some good points: There ARE worse things than death!

(My mother was in a nursing home until two months ago, when she passed on.)
Chrystal
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Hi Tate,

I second what Peter said, not all nursing homes are like which Emazdad mentioned above.

One really important thing I'd like to stress is many of us assume that a person may not have all their faculties if they are unable to communicate. Not true! Many of the residents in nursing homes have had strokes and while able to understand everything we say may not be able to respond. The speech may be a bit garbled and slurred but I assure you they are not in a vegetative state. Many of the residents recognize me and looked forward to my appearances even after 6 yrs. The key is to be tolerant and not to be upset if one of them does not want you around. Just move on. Eye contact is very important, trust me on this, if you are intuative you can see which ones want to be approached. Find out the persons name if possible, keep smiling,and have fun.

Lastly, it's easy to group them all together and assume they all have the same physical or mental capacities. Again, not true each is an individual. My favorite resident was a 92 yr old man "Ernie" who'd wait by the front door, give me a ride on his wheelchair, race up the hallway and announce..she's here! Ha Ha! Sadly Ernie passed away at 98, still smarter than some here. :O)
Shawn D
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One good point here was if you have a rabbit or a bird use it. After my show all the poeple in the nursing home wanted to hold the rabbit. it was the biggest hit of my show there.I almost didn't get it back.
Also it does seem like you are only doing magic for the staff but they enjoy the magic jsut as well, alot of them just cant show it like they might want to do,do to thier condition.
if I get like that and my kids stick me into a home like that I would only hope they will hire a magician. It would make my day so have fun.
I also did walk around and a show so do both anyway even if you aren't hired for it.They wont care they will love it.
Good Luck
Shawn D
Cheshire Cat
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Chrystal makes such an important point about stroke victims. I have first hand experience with a close relative. It is hell for relatives, - it must be Hell with a capital'H' for the sufferer, - but they are not crazy, and although there probably will be no feedback, believe me, they will enjoy entertainment. When we first started entertaining back in '78 we innocently took on everything (as you do) - and did a show for (some quite dangerous) mental patients. The puppets (we do large marionettes) went down fine, so did balloon modelling - but the magic was a disaster. Fortunately I am a piano player and there was a nice in-tune mini piano in the room - so we all had a sing along and clapped hands, and some 'patients' danced with each other or members of staff. My assistant (my future wife, Sue) woke up crying for many nights after as she had not told me she was terrified of these people and the way the Staff left us with them for short periods of time! Obviously NOTHING to do with the lovely people in Nursing Homes - but just a warning to be careful if deviating from children's party work into 'homes' or 'institutions' or whatever. I also recall being 'attacked' by a very large Downs Syndrome adult at a function - fortunately I was fit enough to be able to restrain this huge person before Staff were on the scene. At another function for seriously disturbed teenagers and young adults, they were all placed on a one to one basis in the charge of kids from the local High School. I could tell these kids couldn't cope, and some were frightened of their 'charge'. The Staff were indignant at me insisting they stop their Christmas booze-up in the back room and come back and take over! As a final thought - children throw insults at you now and again don't they? It's all water off a ducks back. A very tiny minority of elderly people can say extremely hurtful things, - which doesn't roll off quite as easily!

Tony.
Tate
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Thanks for all the responses. I started this thread because the woman that contacted me said that I could just do my kid show and it would go over fine. I was worried that, while some of the material would be ok, some of the rest might be too simple or childish.

To answer the question - "show or walkaround?", I am planning a show, but am thinking of going out into the audience at times to perform up close.

I wasn't sure about taking my live rabbit, but it sounds like others have had a positive reaction so I'll check and make sure it's okay to bring Princess. I was surprised that Chrystal recommended taking a puppet. That was one thing I had planned to remove from my show. I didn't think it would go over well.

Also thank you for describing the different conditions the groups may have. I will be careful to avoid booking alzheimers patients. And I will be sure to take the time to look at each patient and try to see beyond their physical problems.
kenscott
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yea not all nursing homes are that bad. These people may not be able to show it but they love to have you entertain them.

I often try new material there. but more importantly you are helping the people when they need it the most. Again many can not express there thoughts or feelings but trust they are feeling it there eyes and hearts.
As for the staff they need some entertainment, just think what they have deal with day in day out.

Go for it and have fun!
See ya at Kidabra Tate!
Ken
Wolfgang
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I agree that you should go with the attitude of having fun. I do at least two nursing home gigs a month, and I love it.

Points I've learned:

Be bold. This audience is not picky. Try things you'd be afraid to in front of other audiences.

Don't expect feedback during the show. Most of the audience members can't respond. But most are paying more attention than you think.

And don't freak out if someone in the audience starts screaming or moaning. They can't help it.

Arrange to have at least two staff workers in the audience beforehand to assist you when necessary.

Do not pity or look down on these people. They are members of "The Greatest Generation." Despite their frail appearance now, they have triumphed over adversity we have never known. It is an honor and privilege to perform for them. Treat them like royalty, because in my book, they are.
"Sure, I do Scotch and Soda in every show. What? You mean there's a trick by that name?"
Chrystal
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Smile
MiNiM
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The main problems we've encounted in these situations is staff talking loudly and generally running interference, and family visitors ditto. I once had a son-in-law of a patient try to have a conversation with me while I was singing a song! I'd been chatting to him before we started so I guess he hadn't noticed any difference!

Cheers,

Bill
He asked me if I liked card tricks. I said "No." He did three. (W. Somerset Maugham)
magic4u02
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Wolfgang:
Sir I must commend you for saying what you said. I could not have worded it any better. Hats off to you.

In my own experiences with working nursing homes I have found that if I do the following, my shows go over fairly well.

- If you have animals in your show, bring them along. often times the people's faces will light up when they get thenchance to pet a rabbit etc. hey may not voice their appreciation, but you can tell from the look in their eyes how much they like it.

- Try to avoid using fire, balloons or anything that could be considered startling.

- Limit your time of your presentation to around 30 mins. This is usually a good enough time for them to watch without getting to restless.

- Always keep the show visual. As others have said, you may not get much assistance for audience interactive effects. if you do colorful and visual magic, they will be able to watch and enjoy your presentation.

- I have also often found that stories and story line patter really works quite well. These people have lived long lives and have seen an awful lot in their lifetime. They can certainly relate to the past and any stories that bring up fond memories, goes over well.

Just remember that even know they may not show so much appreciation, be assured that they enjoy you being there. It is a great feeling to make anyone smile, young and old alike.
Kyle Peron

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Tate
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I'm posting to thank everyone who replied. I performed for the nursing home last Friday and everything went well. Your suggestions helped me prepare and kept my "jitters" to a minimum.

I especially wish to thank those that told me to reach out to all of the audience. I wasn't sure how aware some of the patients were during the show. However when I went out into the audience with my bunny at the end of the show, several people that I thought were "out of it" were very happy to pet the bunny and smiled at me. Even those that wrote about bad experiences helped me know what to look out for and try to avoid.

The hardest part to get used to was the lack of response. I could tell I had the audience's attention during the show, but there was very little reaction at the end of each trick.

Now that I've got that show under my belt, I may contact other nursing homes in my area and see if I can book some more shows.
magic4u02
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Tate,
That is wonderful to hear and I am glad that you went out and did that as I am sure they really did enjoy you being there even if they may not have been able to express it as much as you may have liked.

You may also want to look into doing retirement communities. They are not as hard to overcome since they do not have the health issues as much as the nursing home folks might. It certainly might be worth looking into as I am sure they would love your magical entertainment.
Kyle Peron

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Wolfgang
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Bravo, Tate!

Yes, performing at a nursing home can feel like practicing for yourself. But the audience is more aware than you think. And once you get a feel for the rhythm of that audience, it can be quite fun.

Mr. Peron has an excellent suggestion about doing retirement home shows. Those people are the "forgotten" group. Most assume they don't need the attention that nursing home residents do, and because of that, they don't get as many performing visitors. They are no less lonely, however.

My nursing home and retirement home shows are booked through a local United Way-funded orginization. If you are serious about doing more shows like this, you might want to contact your local United Way and see if they have an association with an elderly-care organization.
"Sure, I do Scotch and Soda in every show. What? You mean there's a trick by that name?"
magic4u02
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Wolfgang:
Thanks for the kind words and your great information. That is indeed a great idea and a way to find out more information. You are right in regards to the Retirement home communities being the forgotten group.

I feel that this is an excellent way to get your magic out to those who would really appreciate it the most. What is also a benefit, is that these foilks are not as mentally or physically challanged as you would have in a nursing home.

It is soemthing worth looking into for sure. There are many of these places in your area and should not be hard to find contact information on them. I am sure they are always looking for new ideas of entertainment.
Kyle Peron

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