Re: Performing for elderly people

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Re: Performing for elderly people

Postby Mark Wynn » Fri Sep 07, 2012 2:06 pm



Over the years I've presented many shows for old folk, even older folk in care homes and people with special needs etc. In fact I still do. (I'm an old person my self now). All older folk do vary and even more so those in care homes. I suggest you do a bit of research into your possible venue, perhaps pay a visit and look around at your prospective audience. Most likely you will be performing in the home's lounge or 'common room'. The audience with be sitting in armchairs all around the room. They may be in their favourite chairs and in their favourite places and most likely wont want to move around too much. You will also find that several will 'nod off' during your show but don't take that as a personal slight!

You have already received some advice and I will add to that in that generally good visual effects and large props are certainly the best. I find that much of my children's material is suitable but not, of course, presented to the audience as if they are children. It's just a matter of change of patter and presentation that's required.

Already mentioned is that clever card routines are out, as well as remembering the names of cards etc. Generally speaking I would say that standard close-up material is not ideal. (No doubt some will disagree with this comment!). Several have mentioned Chop Cup routines. In my opinion this is not ideal either.

Routines with large silks are easily followed and visual. Certainly T&R newspaper or similar is fine. Egg bag is another good item. Light hearted effects with Jumbo cards can be used. Keep away from heavy mental routines although I often use the Mental Epic slate. Keep the presentation light hearted and is a humorous vein. A production of silks from a hat or similar is a good opener. The classic Linking Rings routine is fine. A simple routine with a set of 8 is visual and the noise will keep some awake!

Cut & restored rope routines. I use a skipping rope with the patter about when I was young etc. There is so much suitable material but I wont suggest more that you most likely wont have. I also use Troublewit a lot. Because I'm also a children's entertainer I always finish with a rabbit production. A 'Burnt & Restored note' routine is fine. Take care not to set off the smoke alarms. (Yes - it has happened to me).

Small things like playing cards can't really be seen very well, especially if your audience are sitting all around the room. Remember that many will be hard of hearing so I always use my PA but being very careful not to have it too loud.

I will repeat - make your presentation light hearted with plenty of humour and banter with the audience. Never mind the mind boggling miracles, just have fun routines.

Before you start find out those who will be suitable to stand up and come to assist you. If you don't find out in advance you could have an embarrassing situation.

I ALWAYS have far more material with me than I can possible use, then pick out the effects that seem most appropriate to the audience at the time of performing.

Hope the above helps. Mark.

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Re: Performing for elderly people

Postby mark lewis » Fri Sep 07, 2012 8:33 pm

I have done a lot of these shows and can confirm a lot of what has been said. I often see nonsense spouted, usually on the magic cafe, that you should treat the elderly as children and do a kid show. Complete balderdash. Some of the bodies may be infirm but you will find that a lot of the minds are as sharp as razors. They are not above a little gentle heckling either!

Yes, occasionally one or two will fall asleep but you have to expect that and don't take it personally. I do not get anyone up to help although you can certainly go into the audience and get them to assist in minor ways. Be careful, however about asking them to examine a prop. They will often examine it with the thoroughness of a tax auditor and this can slow up the show. I do one trick where I need to get someone up to help but I never use one of the residents as this is asking for trouble. I get one of the staff up to help instead and the residents seem to get a kick out of this.

No. Don't do mentalism. I already mentioned that they fall asleep very easily. No point helping them along. Use visual material and speak loudly or use a microphone since they are often a bit deaf. And make it funny. The funnier the better. You will not get gales of laughter but even little smiles can mean a lot. Keep them amused and entertained and you can't go wrong. The magic is important but the entertainment even more so.

NEVER use blue or even vaguely doubtful humour. They come from a different generation and will not appreciate it. The key to these shows is interaction. Never perform AT the people-you must perform WITH them. I even insult them gently in a tongue in cheek manner but be careful with this kind of thing because it can backfire if you don't do it right, especially if you are a younger performer.

And don't be put off by a seeming lack of reaction. You aren't going to get standing ovations but that doesn't mean that they don't like you. In fact they will be very appreciative that you came out to see them and will often want to talk to you afterwards.

One more thing. Be careful if you need them to write something. Just tell them that a simple mark will do. Some of them have arthritis in the hands and find it difficult to write anything.

These are rewarding shows and you are doing something where you give back to people.

One other thing. When you arrive you will sometimes find someone sitting in an awkward spot when you set up. If it were a normal show you can easily get them to sit somewhere else so they can see things properly and not be a distraction when the show starts. Of course if people are at an awkward angle they can see how the tricks are done too.

However, with elderly people it can be a devil of a job to shift them. They can be very stubborn about staying where they are and you may have to enlist the aid of a member of staff. They will be behind you or at the side of you and will often ignore your polite requests or hints that they will see the show better if they sit in the front. I often joke to them, "You will see how all my tricks are done!" and this often works but in a few cases they will refuse to budge.

Rather than make a fuss about it I find it best to just give in and often they will fall asleep anyway. As for the secret being exposed I don't think they care or will even remember it two minutes later.

Yes, surrender is often the best option. These people fought the Germans and survived the blitz. You won't win with them. Let them stay where they are.

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