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Profile of hypnoman1
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!
For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice.
Joseph Dunninger
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Profile of LightningRod
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
Magical Moments
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Profile of Magical Moments
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.
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Profile of Woodini
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.
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Profile of walidosama
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
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Eternal Order
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Profile of Mindpro
The first rule of thumb is not to address them as or call them "old people!"
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Inner circle
Beverley, UK
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Profile of wulfiesmith
Animal production
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Profile of dbaltes1520
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.
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Profile of vincentmusician
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.
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Profile of Fromentum
Amazing Thread. Really helpfull tips and details.
gregg webb
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Profile of gregg webb
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.
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Profile of MysteroMagic
There is so much good information. I just wish I had this type of resource 35 years ago.
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Inner circle
So.California / Centl.Florida / retired Florida
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Profile of Russo
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)
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