5 Reasons to Sing at the Nursing Home Gig

5 Reasons to Sing at the Nursing Home Gig
Playing gigs for seniors in nursing homes and assisted living facilities can provide undeniable joy -says Jaime Babbitt.

This topic is near and dear to me, and singers and musicians with older loved ones in similar situations may feel the same.

For those who haven’t the experience with this population, I suggest you watch two documentaries, both widely available: Young@Heart and Alive Inside. These films will blow your mind and heart wide open.

Think about these points as you wonder about how to continue working with your voice:


Learning older music broadens your horizons

Some music that seniors love can be a little… cheesy, but a lot of it is fantastic: Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Hank Williams, Bob Dylan, Mahalia Jackson.

Wrapping your voice and vibe around songs from days of yore can be very inspirational and challenging. Getting out of your comfort zone in a low-pressure setting like a nursing home is great practice. Go listen to Ella Fitzgerald scatting and… yeah. Good luck with that!


Dealing With Different Audiences Is Good Practice

“There are no bad audiences, only bad performers”. I’ve heard that before, but it sounds pretty reductive. There are mood-altered audiences, preoccupied audiences, captive audiences, tired audiences. Nursing home audiences can be any or all of the above.

There is nothing more humbling than to have someone fall asleep while you’re singing. It throws your ego right out the window, which is not such a bad place for it to go when we’re trying to connect with others.


Connecting With Others Is Why We Play And Sing

Really and truly, I’ve been saying this forever to clients who want to get famous and impress their parents and friends: it’s not about YOU and what you’re GETTING, it’s about THEM and what you’re GIVING. This applies whether you’re playing rock music in an arena or waltzes in the common room at an Alzheimer’s facility.

We are helping create a shared experience, a nostalgic experience. And, as we (should) know, musical memory is one of the last things to go for people with dementia, etc. Remember this and honor this. You’ll be so happy to have someone sing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back” to you when you’re 90.


These Gigs Can Be Financially Rewarding

You’ll need an hour or so of material, a decent outfit or two, a website/EPK (electronic press kit) with some live performance video, a list of facilities in your immediate area and a couple of tablespoons of extrovert sauce.

Contact activities directors either by email, or over the phone if you’re old school like me. Ask if you can stop by to say hello. Going the extra mile in this kind of situation could work out well for you. Often, there’s an activity budget and lots of events going on at these places.


Music Is A Healing Profession

The power of music is such that we heal ourselves by playing it, and we also help heal others. The healing occurs in myriad ways: people in nursing facilities barely receive caring human touch apart from those who are paid to assist them.

Think about that as you remember to hug and hold hands with your senior audiences. Watch dementia patients that may not register your “hello” sing along syllable by syllable with one of their favorite old songs. I’ve seen it and it changed my life… it’s your turn now!

Jaime Babbit bio

Jaime Babbitt is an-in demand voice teacher / vocal coach, session singer and performer who started as a Musical Director for Disney Records. Believing that no two singers are alike, Jaime assesses each client, providing personalized vocal tips and techniques relevant to their specific material for real-world application. Check out her book, Working with Your Voice. Email her at: jaime@workingwithyourvoice.com

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  • Kirk Leavesley

    I’m 66 and have been playing the Senior circuit for over 3 years as a solo (Guitar/Vocals) performer. The material I play is “their” songs and I ensure I stick to music from the 1920’s-70’s. It truly is a blessing to bring joy to the residents and to put a smile on their faces. The best compliments I receive is being told that they knew every song and sang along. I play about 20+ shows a month and do about 23-25 songs a show, introducing the songs with a few facts before playing them, so I treat each performance as I would when I played professionally. I have about 100 songs that I draw on and am constantly adding new songs and rearranging material to keep it interesting.

  • Way to go, Kirk…thanks for sharing this and thank you for bringing such joy to the seniors in your area! That’s what I’m talking about!!

  • Kirk Leavesley

    Thanks Jamie

  • Kathy Coneys Alexander

    Well said! Singing is about connection, shared experience. There is no greater joy for a singer than bringing joy, beauty, nostalgia, and fun to someone – anyone – through song.

  • Thanks, Kathy! You’re exactly right…there IS no greater joy!

  • Bill Brewer, BC, Canada

    I do this weekly, and it is a joy as you said. I’m happy to do this free of charge, because I can afford to do so, but have no problem with performers getting paid. For me, my pay is the experience and the multiple thank yous from the audience and the care staff.

  • Cheesy? Wadya mean Cheesy? The big band arrangements and vocal presentations of the late Frank Sinatra are written into legend for all time.
    I have done the Nursing Home thing and yes……..it brings a lot of joy to the oldies….but then I am 72 myself. It is very sobering to stand in front of people my age and younger who through illness or infirmity cannot summon up the spark and zest that I still can.
    It is thanks to TCHelicon and my trust VoicelivePlay GTX that I can bring back for them the likes of “Lonesone Polecat” from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”………..a movie from a time when ladies were ladies and not wannabee male copycat everythings.
    I always look forward to the orange cordial and biscuits in the break time!
    Makes a change from the boozing up hypo after-parties after a stage performance in the clubs !

    The recent death of much admired relative once again woke me up to the reality that we all have a limited time to make the most of the one life we will ever get.
    And so I welcome you all to checkout my copyright song “For Whom Doth The Bell Toll Now”……and for all of you who yet haven’t…………..get a life and make the most of it …………”Ashes to ashes dust to dust” ……so has it been written……so shall it be done !
    ” Live your dreams…..don’t let time take them all away ” !

    Say hi to the oldies from me at your next show!




  • I hear that, Bill! And those thank yous are priceless, indeed!

  • I didn’t mean Sinatra, Poppa…but you’re right. Cheesy might be a bit harsh in general; I stand corrected! Keep on keeping on…!

  • Steve Waddington

    Nice article Jaime! I have been actively recruiting singers I know to do these gigs!
    No matter how busy I get with clubs , casinos, restaurants, etc, I ALWAYS do 4-6 assisted living venues every month. And I have been doing it for YEARS! They love it! And, honestly, I get a lot out of it too! Taking a show to those who can’t venture out to see one is a blast! They are SO appreciative! And, yes, they do love the older stuff (“the soundtrack of their lives” I call it), but you gotta mix it up a little and give them a little surprise now and then too! And it’s important to make a connection with each and every one of them….whether its singing a phrase to one, a wink and a smile to another, shaking a hand…whatever, but sing TO them, WITH them, not AT them! Engage them. And should one or two doze off in the middle of your show…it’s OK! They’ve earned the right to do so! (Besides, some of them are heavily medicated). And take a few moments after the show to speak with them individually. They are not shy about coming up and sharing a memory of a song you sang, or just to say “Great job” or “Thanks for coming”! I wouldn’t say it’s financially rewarding, but they do pay whatever their budget will afford. It’ll at least cover any expenses and buy a dinner afterwards.
    I also do a LOT of studio recording with a company that specializes in reaching advanced Alzheimer patients. I’ve seen the amazing results. And I am frequently asked to play in “the neighborhood” of these care facilities. (That’s the part of the facility that is sectioned off for the advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s patients.).
    However, should I someday in the far future find myself a resident at one of these fine venues, and someone starts singing “I’m Bringing Sexy Back”…I will most likely smack them with my cane! LOL!

  • Thank you, Steve! Kudos to you for all you do!