Gig of the Century

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According to Jeffrey Greene of Party Time DJs in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., the ultimate midweek gig would be performing for seniors living in what he refers to as the “Retirement Mecca” of the United States.
“In South Florida, not surprisingly, most retirement communities here promote themselves as being for the ‘active retirement lifestyle’ and have complete activity staff on the premises,” he explains. “I visited one a few years back and was pleasantly surprised at the volume of activities they offered.
“It makes you look forward to retirement—if you can afford it. One local retirement community even has a hip-hop dance team that performs at the Miami Heat games, and they rock it. Many of us aging DJs and MCs can learn a thing or two from these folks.”
Greene’s thoughts are echoed by Blake Eckelbarger (a.k.a. DJ Sticky Boots) in South Bend, Ind., who says his DJs currently lead parties at a nursing home twice a year (at a retirement community where his mother works).
“We used to find that Big Band and the Rat Pack/crooner-type genres are generally biggest with nursing homes and retirement communities,” he says, “but now many of those folks have passed on and the current crop of retirees is into ’50s-’60s music. That can make the events a lot of fun and it’s always great to see the smiles those classic hits can bring to the faces of older people.
“You can definitely see how the music takes them back and stirs fun memories of their youth. We don’t market to these groups specifically, but usually have booked events just through word-of-mouth or via employees that used us for other types of events.”
In America, people are simply living longer. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the United States currently has the greatest number of known centenarians of any nation, with 53,364 according to the latest census, or 1.73 per 10,000 people (83-percent are female). In 2012, the United Nations estimated that there were 316,600 living centenarians worldwide.
Supercentenarian status—a person who has lived to the age of 110 or more—is reached by one in 1,000 centenarians. Even rarer is a person who has lived to age 115. As of July 2013, there are only 30 people in recorded history who have indisputably reached this age.
In many countries, people receive a gift or congratulations on their 100th birthday. In the United States, centenarians traditionally receive a letter from the U.S. president, congratulating them for their longevity. NBC’s Today Show has also named new centenarians on-air since 1983.
With that in mind, mobile jocks, let us introduce you to Randi Rae of Randi Rae Major Productions in Edison, N.J.—who actually earns a full-time living from doing elderly parties seven days a week, and as a result no longer depends on entertaining at wedding receptions and bar mitzvahs to pay her monthly bills.
Rae says it’s great to celebrate these special events with the elders, and especially when she’s helping celebrate someone’s 100th, 101st, 102nd, 103rd and 104th birthdays.
“It’s great doing senior events, especially in nursing homes,” explains Rae, who over 20 years ago did her first event at a nursing home.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as BBQ parties for residents, staff and their families,” she says. “It’s not just DJing, but karaoke, fashion shows, games, carnivals, casino games and talent shows. It’s mostly mid-day and mid-week work; very fun and rewarding, with no pressure.”
Rae says these gigs require very little prep work or extensive music libraries, and she reports that she never has to bring along lights.
“A lot of referrals come from staff for private events,” she says, “and you usually get all the holiday staff parties and awards and retirement dinners afterwards. It’s a simple set-up, and most events are for one hour only. Some special events could be one-and-a-half to two, but it’s never more than three.”
She says her prices range from $100 to $150 per hour. And remember, this is for mid-week work!
Rae says there are many different kinds of senior places—from 55-and-over communities to resident housing to senior centers to adult daycare to assisted living to nursing homes—and the people and budgets are all different.
“The most recent 100th birthday party I just did on a recent Friday for Estelle,” says Rae. “Miss Estelle got her hair done right there at the nursing home, where a beautician and a barber come in regularly during the month. She was dressed in her best dress and a staff member wheeled her into a room filled with residents who clapped and sang ‘Happy Birthday.’
“It’s not really a surprise because she knew it was her birthday and she had spent all morning getting all dolled up, but it was the thrill and excitement of everyone being there and the decorations, with balloons and paper tablecloths everyone had signed with her name. They sat her at a long 6-foot table in front of the room by herself.”
Rae recalls that she played “Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder, and