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Older Adults, Isolated by Virus, Become DJs for New Online Show

2020-5-13

Stuck inside his room at an assisted living center, Bob Coleman knew he could not go out in public with the coronavirus spreading. But he could still connect with others by sharing his love for country music over the internet.

“Hello, everybody. It’s a bright day in Franklin, Tennessee,” he said into his microphone. “This is Bob Coleman, better known as the ‘Karaoke Cowboy,’ coming to you from Room 3325. ... Let’s just jump right into it.”

Then Coleman began to play the music he loves --- hits from country music stars like Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley. The 88-year-old carefully chooses each song.

Coleman is a resident of Somerby Franklin, an assisted living center about 32 kilometers south of Nashville. He formerly served in the United States Air Force.

He and several other retirees have turned into disc jockeys, or DJs, for a new online radio hour known as “Radio Recliner.”

The 60-minute show was launched last month, starting with retirees in middle Tennessee. It has since expanded, with residents of assisted-living centers in Georgia and Alabama taking part in the project. Many jumped at the chance to work as a DJ to ease the loneliness of social distancing rules.

Older adults are at high risk from the new coronavirus. At most assisted-living facilities, not only are visitors barred but so is socializing with other residents.

A Georgia and Alabama-based marketing company called Luckie came up with the idea of Radio Recliner. One of its clients is Bridge Senior Living, which operates more than 20 centers for older adults in 14 states.

The volunteer DJs record themselves on their phones. The audio is then sent off to audio production specialists who deal with the technical side of Radio Recliner.

New shows appear weekdays at 12 o’clock. Listeners can send song requests in honor of family or friends. For example, listeners might hear a message like this: “Hey, Granny. This is your favorite granddaughter Amy ... We just wanted to call in and say we love you very much.”

Mitch Bennett serves as Luckie’s chief creative officer. He says the idea was to provide a sense of community to older people who have been spending a lot of time alone.

“For this generation, radio was the original social media,” Bennett said. “Dedicating a song to someone you love, and having them hear it along with everyone else, is a special way of connecting. It’s a great time to bring that feeling back.”

In Georgia, 80-year-old Ed Rosenblatt said an hour he spent playing songs on Radio Recliner resulted in a flood of text messages, emails and calls from family and friends. Rosenblatt said many of the messages were from people he had not heard from for years.

In this April 27, 2020 photo provided by Luckie, Ed Rosenblatt records audio for the
In this April 27, 2020 photo provided by Luckie, Ed Rosenblatt records audio for the "Radio Recliner" show at Somerby Sandy Springs, outside Atlanta. Rosenblatt is one of several retirees who have turned into DJs for the new online radio hour.

He prepared a special close for his Radio Recliner hour.

“For the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to play the ukulele,” said Rosenblatt, who lives at Somerby Sandy Springs just outside of Atlanta. “So, at the close of the show, I actually played a song on my ukulele. I sang and played the Sloop John B.”

The Beach Boys released the most popular version of the song in 1966.

“Everybody knows that song,” Rosenblatt said.

I’m Caty Weaver.

The Associated Press reported this story. Caty Weaver adapted it for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

isolate - v. to put or keep (someone or something) in a place or situation that is separate from others

microphone-n. a device into which people speak or sing in order to record their voices or to make them sound louder

resident -n. someone who lives in a particular place

disc jockey -n. a person who plays recorded music on the radio or at a party or nightclub

client -n. a person who pays a professional person or organization for services

original -adj. happening or existing first or at the beginning

dedicate -v. to say or write that something (as a book or song) is written or performed in honor of someone