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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » The little darlings » » Advice needed: Shows at Retirement Homes (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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danfreed
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West Chester PA
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I'm a kids entertainer only, but I get asked to do senior homes once in a while. I've done caricatures and balloon twisting for them, but never a magic show. I've turned down the requests because I'm not sure how well my act and my style would go over. I know many seniors regress to being child-like, but many don't. I feel odd treating them like kids and doing a kids act, but should I? I'd like to get into this for the money, but also to make them happy. I don't mind working on new stuff just for them, but I don't know what works. I don't know what approach to take as far as patter, style, jokes, etc. Also, with kids I really like the constant reaction, feedback and energy, and if I go more than a minute without the laughter and screams and wild reactions, I get uncomfortable. But would seniors be more like performing for an oil painting? I know the ones who are really out of it won't react, but what about the rest. Any advice is appreciated. Any books/dvd's, routines you guys suggest? Thanks
bowers
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Oakboro N.C.
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Do you do any rope or coin tricks? I find older people enjoy these. Liquid tricks work well too like the comedy glass.
MichaelCGM
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Oklahoma City
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Hi Dan. I treat residents of "retirement homes" the same way I treat other adult shows. Many of the retirees are very sharp and quick-witted and will often give you a run for your money. Retirement means just that… retired… not, necessarily physically or mentally challenged. I would make a distinction between a "retirement home" and a "nursing home." I perform at retirement facilities and assisted living facilities often. They really appreciate the entertainment and really like to be actively involved in the show. The only real challenge is being careful when calling for volunteers. Talk with the event coordinator before the show and find out who is limited in moving to and from the staging area.

PM me with any questions you might have.
Magically Yours,

Magical Michael

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danfreed
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I haven't done rope stuff, but I thought about it. Coins I do, but I don't know how well they could see that unless it's close-up. The directors I've talked to said I could do my kid show stuff and that they would like it, but I'm skeptical, and Michael, you say you do your adult show for them. I haven't really done adult shows, though I'm slowly working on that. I do the growing/shrinking head but that might be an issue for seniors. I could do the vanishing bandana, though many people think it's lame. I do a water monte. That trick where you make something disapear by throwing over the head, silk to egg, I could do a giant caricature drawing of someone, the ping pong ball balance/stuck on nose gag, invisible deck, etc. Am I on the right track? Would any of the super silly stuff for kids work? (such as the Kandu comedy Karton,square circle with underwear in it, etc).
MichaelDouglas
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Portland, Oregon
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I've found that larger visual tricks work well. I use volunteers but I try to go to them depending on the trick. By all means, use a PA system, as many of them have diminished hearing. Yes, I do use some of the effects from my kid's magic show, but I just omit some of the silliness that the kids enjoy.

On another note, this link http://www.louiefoxx.com/perform4seniors/ offers a great resource for performing for seniors. You may want to consider investing in it....it covers the marketing as well as the magic.

Break a leg.
charliecheckers
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Only you know how you currently approach your shows for kids to determine if you need to alter the performance for retirement homes. For example, the show Lion King is currently playing in local theaters. The audience consists of people who are literally 3 years old to nearly 100. They do not change anything to account for the audience's age. The same is true for David Copperfield. However, Sesamie Street would only appeal to younger kids (and parents/grandparents) due to the type of show they designed. So - I really think it depends on your current show and how it is presented to advise on how or if you alter it. I have performed for nursing home audiences with little change to my show, as it was designed to play to a wide variety of audiences. My advice to you is to get first hand experience in being social with this group by joining them in a social setting first to beter determine how to interact with them in a professional manner during a performance. Good luck.
jimhlou
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I have a senior citizen show this afternoon. A partial list of tricks: crystal tube, floating rose, vanishing milk to light bulb, mis-made flag, newspaper tear, and Zombie skull. The finale is a temple screen production with a 6 foot silk. DON'T do kid show effects, don't do cards, don't pop balloons, and I've found from experience that the growing/shrinking head doesn't work.

Have fun - this is a rewarding group to perform for.

Jim
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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I love these type shows.
Like my kid shows, I mix music and puppetry.

Think visual, and things that play the whole room.
I remember not to long ago, I was doing Chicago opener. Instead of jumbo cards, I used my usual poker deck. A commment from the back of the room from one resident to another, "What is he doing?". I need those moments to help humble and also remind me of what works.

Be safe, well and creative,

Harris
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jackturk
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I haven't done gobs of shows for this market, but I have done quite a few over the years.

Make sure when you go in you have a great sense of who you are performing for.

If there's a large number of mentally challenged/ Alzheimer patients, then I totally agree - do the kids show and make it fun and visual.

If the crowd is older folks who may be physically limited, but still have their wits about them, you can go with a more grown up show - even toss in some mind-reading bits. Many in their 80s and 90s haven't lost their edge and will appreciate that.

Also get a staff member to help out as a volunteer - that seems to go over well with both the residents and with the staff too.

Finally, I've included balloon animals for these shows and they go over great. A lot of them have NEVER gotten a balloon animal nor really seen one made up close.

--Jack
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TheAmbitiousCard
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I do a show at a retirement home near me. Actually in the nursing facility, so the audience is less than stellar.
I never expect it to be a good show. I do it to be nice.
I used to try to do a brief version of my regular act but I stopped.

Instead, I use this opportunity to do all the stuff I love to do but never get a chance to in my regular shows.

New routines I'm trying out
Old routines I love but don't work for strolling/stand-up venues
New moves I'm trying for existing routines to see how they work
New lines
New props

I do a 20 minute show every few months and the place is right near my home.

Now, I actually love doing this show and look forward to it each time.

Since I've switched to that format I've enjoyed these new (or old) routines I would otherwise not do regularly:
Billiard Ball Routine
Benson Bowl
Cylinder and Coins
Chink-a-Chink
Daryl's Acrbatic Knot
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danfreed
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West Chester PA
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Thank you everyone for your help. I will take your advice and get at it. I think I'll do a few free shows to get my feet wet and work out the issues.
MichaelCGM
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Sorry for getting back to this so late, but life got in the way. Smile When I say I do my adult show for retirees, I mean that I have two shows (kid-shows and adult shows). For a mixed audience, I have a basic layout and just tweak it when necessary. For many Retirement Facilities, they include family members in their events - which means you may have some children present. You simply can't go wrong, if you follow charliecheckers advice. He's right on the money.

That being said, over-the-head-vanish, silk-to-egg, and invisible-deck play well. I'd suggest using invisible deck as a prediction. I'd lose most of the "silly" stuff and toss in a few groaners and some topical humor. Forget about underwear from your square-circle. Kids love that, but it can be droll for adults. You might produce some silks, followed by streamers, followed by sugar-free candy to pass out. In this case, the square circle makes a great finale. Also, I've used an idea, for years, that I picked up somewhere along the way. Produce the final candy load from your SC by the handfuls, placing the handfuls of candy into an opaque bowl on your table. Then pass out the overflowing bowl of candy as a parting gift for the group. What they don't know, is that the opaque bowl was already half full of candy - so the production appears much larger.

Tip: Script a kid-show, an adult-show, and a mixed-show. Save them on your PC and simply tweak them as you get a handle on the different tastes you'll be encountering.

Most of all, go in with confidence and just be yourself. As teacher, you should be able to get the pulse of your audience rather quickly. You'll do just fine.
Magically Yours,

Magical Michael

MagicalMichael.com Smile Laus Deo!
danfreed
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Thank you Michael and everyone. Very helpful. I'm very comfortable doing kids shows but I've almost never done an adult show, though I've done some close up for adults, so I'll be out of my comfort zone, but your advice sounds solid and should help.
TomBoleware
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Dan,
I agree with all the others that this is a different type audience and you shouldn't expect the same reactions you get from kids. Lot of good advice given already.

But since you are most comfortable just doing kid shows, and seem to be stuck there, let me make two more suggestions:

1. Go there as a speaker. You there to talk about what you do out in the community. You do magic shows for children. By framing it this way, you can end up demonstrating most all your show. Joke about needing the practice and simply go into a routine. Treating them like kids now becomes a part of the act. You simply showing what a fun job you have. You can even joke about getting paid to do such silliness.

2. Take an audience with you. Invite the staff to bring their own kids to see the show. Seat them on the floor between you and the adult audience. (This is important because you want the kids watching you, not the older adults.) Then just do your normal show. If the staff can't have their kids come, invite a nearby daycare to bring a small class of 4/5 year olds. I promise you the older adults will enjoy watching the kids reactions more than the show.

I've done both and know how well it works this way. If you need more detail, just let me know.

Good luck
Tom
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Bill Hilly
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I make a substantial part of my income performing for seniors so I feel qualified to respond here.

Performing for seniors is VERY rewarding, for you and for them - IF you do it right. There are as many opinions on this type of gig as there are… raindrops. But there are some absolutes. These are some of mine. I hope you find this useful.

Your audiences will vary greatly if you do a lot of these shows. You will have some people who are not diminished in any physical or mental way. They are simply retirees who live in a retirement facility. You will get some who are not aware that you are there - or that they are there for that matter. Some facilities wheel them in because they are required to provide entertainment for all the residents. I had a show with a man in the audience that appeared to be asleep. Every few minutes he would raise in head and shout an address then lower his head again. He did that for over an hour.

I had another with a lady who kept saying, “He’s not very funny,” “That’s a $3!++y tie,” and other things. At the end of the show she gave me a kiss and told me to hurry back to visit again.

I love these types of shows! And I’m maybe a little over sensitive to the old folks, so not meaning to step on any toes of anyone who offers advice… Here’s mine:

Absolutely do NOT do a children's show! You will insult most of your audience and all of the activity directors that care about their residents.

That is a piece of advice we see and hear way too often and it is completely WRONG. Treat all of your audiences with the respect they deserve. Just because they're old, just because some my not be as sharp as a tack, does not mean you can belittle them and treat them like children.

That being said, SOME silliness, SOME effects that conjure childlike wonder, SOME cartoony props are fine. It's all about fun. But the way you address the audience; the words and attitude you convey will be noticed by residents and venue personnel. Jokes and references to things that are/were relevant and common to the audience work best. Think Jack Benny, Red Skelton, Blackstone, jokes about Edsels for the older crowd. DO NOT MAKE JOKES ABOUT diapers, Alzheimer's Disease, aches & pains, etc.

Large visual props are a must. Use a slower pace throughout the show. Before you start, make sure you can be seen by everyone - that no seat positions have a blocked view.

Be prepared to be heckled. Some of my best moments come from those (usually women are bolder) who talk back. They’ll let you know if your material sucks. They’ll also let you know how much they like you. Allow some time at the end of your show for them to approach you to thank you, shake your hand, tell you a story, etc.

The Louie Foxx product is useful, BUT, there is one thing he repeatedly mentions that is WRONG WRONG WRONG: He repeatedly says that you don’t have to be all that good to perform for seniors. He says that you can use them to practice your untried stuff. He says a few other things like that over and over. THAT IS VERY WRONG! Give them the best show you got, even if you’re doing a free show. We all work in new material amongst our prime stuff for all types of audiences. But Mr. Foxx implies that seniors can be treated somewhat less than other audience. I won his stuff and get his newsletter. As I said, it is useful (and cheap) but in my opinion he is not an expert in this area.

Use a sound system; with multiple speakers if your group is more than about 30 people or if your in a room larger than a regular living room. Most of the time you’ll be in the dinning hall and even with a quiet group, or little background noise, you’ll need to be heard in the back.

Finally, if you want to get into this market for the money - DON’T. If that’s all they are to you, you shouldn’t go near these dear old people. And, some places don’t pay much. Occasionally I get asked to travel 100+ miles and perform for $100 or even less. I can’t do that. My fees start at 3 times what Mr. Foxx quotes in the letters he’ll sell you. Some places don’t have that kind of money. Most do. BUT YOU BETTER EARN IT. If you aren’t worth the money, your name will spread quicker than ---- through a goose. That's not to say you shouldn't do the lower paying gigs. The residents deserve good entertainment. And if your performance level is in that price range, GO FOR IT. ( I hope that doesn't read as insulting. That's NOT the way I mean that at all! )

Senior gigs are a wonderful way to make a living. And when your audiences feel happy about how you brightened their day, you'll feel great.

-B.H.
danfreed
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West Chester PA
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Thank you Bill and Tom. Sounds like very good advice. I want to do this to make them happy and to make some money. But I don't expect to get paid a lot. I need more work during the day anyway. If I get paid less, then OK, it's more than I would make watching The Jerry Springer Show at home (just kidding, I don't watch that junk). I'll certainly give them my best effort, and the more I perform the better my act will be. I'm wondering about what I should charge though. I will also offer to do balloons or caricatures after the show for extra.
Bill Hilly
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Dan,

You are already ahead of the game with your good attitude about it. I think you'll find it very rewarding, especially emotionally. I'll PM you with a pricing strategy I use.

I have no experience with the balloons & caricatures. I've heard of latex issues in hospitals. The only thing I could think of that might go awry with caricatures is if someone was very sensitive and thought you were making fun of them somehow. Again, I don't know about that. I just tend to (try to) err on the safe side when it comes to their feelings. (Not at all like I am here. Smile ) Two of my grand parents, one uncle, and now both of parents are in stages of Alzheimer's Disease so I get a little first-hand experience in dealing with that.

Now as for Jerry Springer... There's something to be learned from him. I don't have a TV any more but watch him a few times and see if you can spot something. We could do a whole thread on it.

All the best to you in this new direction. Give it your best (you already said that) and you'll love it.

- B.H.
danfreed
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West Chester PA
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With caricatures, some want it some don't, and I'm a nice artist - I don't make people look bad, at least not on purpose, it's more of a simplified cartoon portrait, and seniors I make a little younger looking. With the balloons, I only did that once, but it was mostly women who wanted it.
Howie Diddot
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Dan;

I am thinking tricks with stories, like hospitality, or Chico the Mind Reading Monkey, along with a Gumball machine ring retrieval, Multiplying Bottles or a vanishing Coke Bottle would work well, A live rabbit is great, check with the staff first to see if they have allergy issues
harris
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Harris Deutsch
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Alzheimer units are one of my favorites. As many of you know connecting with someone with Alzheimers as an entertainer is much easier than someone you know and love. Remembering the past is something I use such as stories about Ed Sullivan, Song titles, events in our area.

A great variety show works well with this sub group of delightful peoople.

Harris
still too old to know everything
Harris Deutsch aka dr laugh
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