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DanielCoyne
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Hey everyone,

I worked as a nursing assistant last summer at a nursing home. After starting nursing school, time constraints made it impractical for me to continue working there as a CNA. However, they have hired me (for a very modest fee) to perform for an hour(!) on Wednesdays and Thursdays every other week. On Wednesdays I do a show for the long-term care wing and on Thursdays for residents with dementia issues.

Since the audiences are different on Wednesdays and Thursdays, I can do the same show both days, but I try to switch it up week to week.

What a great opportunity to do service, gain performance experience, try out new material, and get a modest paycheck!

As many people have noted here, nursing home audiences are not very typical -- the responses are often not immediate and not always obvious. However, I have no doubt that my performances there are as meaningful and memorable as any show I have ever done.

I will post some tips, best practices, and lessons learned soon -- right now I have to load up and head off to a show!

Best,
Daniel
Amazing Magic Co
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Daniel,

Thanks for your post. I've been wondering about these types of venues and what mix works best. I'm looking forward to your posts along with others' experiences.

Dan.
DanielCoyne
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An unexpected nursing home hit: the air cannon.
(See the 1st pic on the "Photos" page of my website, linked below.)

This thing shoots a blast of air 30 feet across the room, and seems wildly inappropriate for the elderly. Which is why, I think, it's such a success.

I introduce it by talking about the fact the we grownups don't often get to play with toys. One of the things I love about magic is that it lets all of us reconnect with the wonder and fun of being a kid. I show the air cannon, explain what it does and how it works. I then go out into the audience and ask one of the residents to hold up a red silk. I back up 20 paces and take aim. Everyone sees the silk fly up.

After a couple of demonstrations, I ask if anyone would like to know what if feels like to get a puff of air in the face. I pick someone with hair that will visibly fly up and ask their permission. It inevitable gets a big surprised and delighted reaction from the volunteer and from the crowd when they see the person's hair blow back.

Pretty soon everyone is volunteering to be a target and everyone has a huge smile on their face.

When I was packing to go to my first nursing home show, my partner said, "Your not bringing the air cannon are you?" And I said, no of course not. But...after being a little desperate for new material and thinking carefully about how to do it, I tried it. I'm glad I did.

More reflections to come.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear about what other people have done successfully that might not be an obvious choice for nursing homes.

Best,
Daniel
rsylvester
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Hi Daniel: I'd like to do some performing at nursing and assisted living homes, as well. I'd like to hear more about what effects really work well for you, whether they're considered appropriate or not, especially for the long-term care wing. I think those are the folks who may need the pick-me-up magic brings the most. But they also seem like the most challenging. Since you're a trained nurse, I'd like to hear more about your philosophy for doing magic in these settings. I'm also considering volunteering at a local hospital, doing magic. I've never done either of these before, but I'm drawn to them after seeing my parents through ill health, and finally death. They always liked my magic, and I like the way it brings smiles to faces, at times when they may not have as much to smile about. I look forward to hearing about your experiences.
Mike Maturen
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I did quite a bit of nursing home work when I was a teen (yes, magic DID exist way back then!). It was very rewarding, and a great way to practice. The audiences tend to be very forgiving.

I would recommend an occasional nursing home visit, even if you don't make it a regular thing. The residents love it, and it will do your own heart some good, as well!
Mike Maturen
World of Wonder Entertainment
The Magic and Mayhem of Mike Maturen
989-335-1661
mikematuren@gmail.com

AUTHOR OF "A NEW DAWN--Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life"

member: International Magician's Society
djurmann
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Interestingly I offered my services to a number of nursing homes in the UK....not one reply, not even thank you but no. Maybe it is a UK thing. Doing a couple of fundraisers for hospices, after that I may re-apply.
Mowee
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Having had my mother in a nursing home for several years (albeit in another state) I think it would be great to learn more about what works and why. I know you have a lot of challenges...limited eyesight, hearing and mental awareness. My guess is the magic would have to be fairly straight forward and simple to comprehend. Looking forward to more tips.
Damon Reinbold
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Daniel, you are to be commended for your charitable efforts. If anyone needs entertainment, it is nursing home and assisted living residents. I hope you produce a flower and give it to the person in the audience who is smiling the least because they will need it the most.

Kudos. God bless.

Damon
Damon Reinbold
<BR>2011 President, S.A.M. Assembly 71
<BR>2011 President, IBM Ring 90
DanielCoyne
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Here is another tip:

Be good to the staff. I did everything I could to make sure my show wouldn't cause additional work for the staff. I wanted them to be excited about my performance, not resent me for disrupting their routine or causing additional work. (The truth is, these people work really hard for not a lot of money, under some very draining circumstances.)

I talked to the activities director about what time and space would be easiest for everyone. I sent posters ahead of time so people could get excited about it (or at least not be surprised when I showed up!) I stopped by for a few minutes the day before with d'lites and a few small pocket tricks to introduce myself (or reacquaint myself -- I had worked there last summer)and promote the show/remind people I was coming the next day.

When I arrived (early), I was patient and flexible, asking if there was anything I could do to help get the space ready. I also thanked the staff members before during and after -- for helping to get people to the show, interrupting their routine, being willing to volunteer, providing some applause, etc.

If you need volunteers who can read a dictionary word, identify a regular size playing card, or come to the front of the room, you may need a staff member to be a volunteer. I ask nicely in advance if they would be willing to help out, and reassure them that it will be fun and easy.

Finally, I try to include one or two tricks that will absolutely fry the brains of staff members who are paying attention -- I want them to know that I'm a serious magician as well as a goofy entertainer. These are the folks who may ask me if I do parties, bridal showers, etc. and ask for a business card.

More to come about the material that has worked best and how to really make it a great experience for the residents.

Thanks,
Daniel
manal
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As an LPN in resthomes the past 6 years I feel the above is great advice, especially concerning the staff and involving them as well as residents. Don't perform Snowstorm in China. Anything involving cleanup as noted above puts extra work on already overworked staff.
Silk to Egg plays well as well as Jeff Hobsons Balloon Bag and various balloon gags/bits.
Here are a few more that went well; comedy hat tears, Cut and restored rope, Egg on Fan, salt pour (into a receptacle), Misers dream.
They enjoy being made to feel apart of the show,laughing/calling out. Getting out of their rooms and doing something besides current events , music appreciation and bingo really breaks the monotony.
Most resthomes have very little funds for recreation and I have worked in one that had no recreation budget at all! Nothing! All their entertainment was provided for free by volunteers and most of it was worth what they paid,"nothing".
You are doing a great service Daniel and I hope the experience continues to be pleasant for you.
Life is too important to take seriously.

james@jamesmanalli.com

www.jamesmanalli.com
DanielCoyne
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Pre-show...

Nursing home residents do not arrive for the show en masse. They trickle in one at a time with a staff member (who will then go back and bring another resident.) This means that there will be people sitting around for quite some time before your show is supposed to start.

I fill this time by playing music and warming up. I try to choose toe-tapping music that is upbeat, but not too loud or modern -- such as Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Blossom Deary, etc. My warm up includes setting and checking all my props, stopping to do a few seconds of juggling, introducing myself to residents as they arrive, doing a short close-up trick for the early guests, continuing to adjust props, playing a few chords on my ukulele, doing some hat tricks, etc. During this time, I repeatedly tell everyone my name, that I'm here to do a magic and juggling show, that I'm just warming up, and that the show will start in 15 minutes (or whatever.)

(Added bonus: doing a few preliminary card-flourishes, hat tricks, juggling moves, etc. helps me feel less nervous.)

This is a good time to learn a few names, so I can address individual residents during the show. I can also gauge who might be an appropriate volunteer, and even ask them if they'd like to help out during the show.

I feel like the most important thing I can do before, during, and after the show, is spend time interacting with the residents in a way that is personal, caring, and upbeat. This pre-show time is a great opportunity for that.

More to come. : )

-Daniel
rsylvester
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This is fantastic, Daniel. Keep it coming. You are an inspiration. I've lost both my parents -- my mom in hospice, my dad in residential care. I would really like to give back to the people who have helped them. Great advice, @manal. I will be following this thread with interest.
Bob1Dog
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I've done a few of these myself for gratis and practice purposes. Daniel is spot in with everything he says. Staff are so busy that most of them don't even get to see the show, so anything you can do to make their lives simpler while you're there is also appreciated. For the folks with dementia, the staff does like to observe so they can measure just what some folks can and can't understand. So magic for these folks can be theraputic as well. I get great reactions from the simpler tricks, like sucker die and mis made flag in a change bag..they always get plenty of response....always! Nursing home folks love a dove pan producing candy amd it's always a hit too. Vanishing bandana too! I've never had a nursing home turn down a free show; they need as much variety for the residents as they can get.
What if the Hokey Pokey really IS what it's all about? Smile

My neighbor rang my doorbell at 2:30 a.m. this morning, can you believe that, 2:30 a.m.!? Lucky for him I was still up playing my drums.
Amazing Magic Co
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I've been really enjoyng rhis thread ... This may seem like a silly querstion but can you do any mentalism routines like a book test or Impossible Insight. How about Bill in Lemon routines? I'm trying to get a better handle on what works best. I'm hearing keep it visual. How long is your show usually?

Thanks!
Dan.
DanielCoyne
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Believe it or not, I perform for 50 - 60 minutes, plus the pre-show warm-up time (see "pre-show" post above.)

I've tried 3 different mentalism-oriented effects with ok results. (They get a bigger reaction from any staff members who might be watching.) I'll write more about which effects I've tried tomorrow. In fact, I'll post my set list from a couple of the shows.

I'm glad that you guys have found this thread helpful and interesting. Let's keep it going. : )

- Daniel
DanielCoyne
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Here's an example of a flyer I emailed as a PDF in advance to help promote my show.

Image
DanielCoyne
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Sample set list for nursing home show.

Warm Up:

  • Hat manipulation.
  • Card flourishes and boomerang cards.
  • Close-up ring and string effect.


SHOW

  • Introduction and quick change (Dress Code by Callen Morelli)
  • Club juggling routine to music
  • Torn & restored sign / mouth coil
  • Silk productions / silk fountain / candle production and vanish (Yes, I light the candle. Yes, I asked permission.)
  • Hopping Spots
  • Quick mentalism bit
  • Invisible Deck
  • Ropes (mostly Fiber Optics stuff)
  • Song: Five Foot Two (sung with Ukulele accompaniment plus kazoo.)
  • Money sequence (jumbo coin productions, miser's dream, spring bills, etc.)
  • Ball juggling routine to music
  • Silk-to-Egg
  • Song: My Girl (with karaoke accompaniment)
  • Thanks for having me -- throw streamers


Music and schmoozing while I pack up.

This lasts about an hour. In my opinion, this is a little too long for a nursing home show. However, that's what the administrators wanted, and actually, the residents stay pretty engaged.

I hope this is helpful. Feel free to ask about specific effects, or whatever.

Thanks,
Daniel
Mike Maturen
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Daniel...what a great thing you are doing!

I haven't done a nursing home show in 30+ years (shame on me!)...but I do often perform free of charge for various charities. Last month, I was the headliner at the Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention of Alcona County (CANPAC) free family fun night. This month, I am the entertainment for our Catholic parish's Mother's Day celebration. In July, I am doing the Walk For Life for cancer awareness.

Now...I gotta book some paying gigs so I can afford all this stuff!

But, it does my heart good, and I love it.
Mike Maturen
World of Wonder Entertainment
The Magic and Mayhem of Mike Maturen
989-335-1661
mikematuren@gmail.com

AUTHOR OF "A NEW DAWN--Weekly Wisdom From Everyday Life"

member: International Magician's Society
rsylvester
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Thanks for the set list, Daniel. I've heard nursing homes are tough because of eye/hearing problems. But it looks like you have big visuals, and I bet the songs help give it variety. Unfortunately, my wife and kids tell me I should never sing.

On silk to egg, do you do sucker effect and crack the egg at the end?

@Mike: You are to be commended on the Child Abuse Prevention Network. What a wonderful cause.

I've got a day job (thankfully, still) which pays for this. I'm looking for places to perform and make a difference and bring some smiles to faces, which may not otherwise have reasons to smile.
DanielCoyne
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Rsylvester: Yes, I do a sucker version and break the egg in a glass.

-Daniel
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