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User Name Thread Name Subject Posted
John C. Bunnell Playing for old peoples homes (15) RE: Old people's homes (types of) 16 Oct 18

Geographic note first: I'm in the US Pacific Northwest, so what I can report may vary from what others, particularly in the British Isles and/or UK, may find on looking into matters. [Side query: what's the best way to refer to the whole of the territory over there nowadays, what with recent developments and all?]

That noted...

In the US today, there are now at least two quite distinct classes of facility catering to senior citizens/the elderly, and this is a case where it's important to distinguish between the two.

"Nursing homes" are designed specifically for those needing ongoing full-time support and observation by medical professionals, and function in most respects as residential hospitals with varying degrees of sophistication. Residents are there because they need ongoing care, medication, and observation for specific illnesses and conditions.

"Senior living communities" are a whole different kettle of fish, and a rapidly growing market segment as the American population ages. There are a considerable variety of these, falling into several broad categories: "independent living", "assisted living", and more recently, "memory care", with some facilities providing all these levels of service under one roof. An "independent living" apartment (or sometimes, condominium) is more likely to come fully furnished than a regular apartment; the monthly cost will usually include some level of housekeeping/maid service and often covers some meals in a common dining facility, which may be either buffet-style or in the mode of a full service restaurant. "Assisted living" generally includes all meals plus housekeeping and some degree of caregiving (for example, ensuring that residents' medications are taken on the proper schedule, or escorting them to and from activities). OTOH, unlike a nursing home, the assisted living facility has minimal true medical facilities of its own; many to most, though, provide supervised transportation to and from residents' medical appointments off-site. "Memory care" is just what it says; residents are those on the spectrum of conditions from mild dementia on up through Alzheimer's, are closely supervised, and provided with activities suitable for their particular mental capacity. Depending on their specific condition, memory care patients may take meals in the common dining areas or be served in their rooms.

My mother has been living in a senior living community for a couple of years now; hers is part of a regional group with more than a dozen locations scattered from southern Oregon to Montana. It is a large, bright place with two large dining rooms and a smaller area that's called a "pub" but which looks rather more like a wine bar with a billiards table and a couple of oversized TVs. They also have a small theater, a full-scale gym and pool, an onsite hair salon for the ladies, and several conference rooms of various sizes for social activities, and the staff includes a "social director" who is specifically charged with planning these activities and events...a percentage of which have included local musical talent. Her facility is around ten years old; the parent company has been opening more of these at the pace of one or two a year, and there is a bumper crop of new and similar facilities springing up all over my metropolitan area. Not all senior-living communities are as upscale and well-equipped as Mother's, but most of them are upgrading and refreshing themselves, in no small part because the new places have upped the standard by which the whole category is judged.

What does all this mean for musicians? My take is this: in general, at a nursing home, music is background, live music is a luxury, and it matters very little to anyone who's performing it. At a senior living community, music is entertainment -- and the audience you attract is there to see *you*. Moreover, both the facility's management and the residents (especially where a sizeable number are in independent-living units) have budgets for entertainment; if you have CDs to sell, people may very well buy them.

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