By Sahar Chmais
Inside Orchard Park, music shines on Tuesdays as community residents gather to sing along to the piano; these days, the elderly residents have a purpose. It wasn’t long ago that they were finally able to revive that goal, as a broken piano and COVID-19 robbed them of these joys.
First, it was the COVID-19 restrictions that forced residents to stay in their rooms without group activities or interaction. After a year of estrangement, residents felt lonely and no longer left their rooms for activities. Music was their saving grace.
“They got used to [staying alone]”said Ruben Flores, Director of Life Enrichment at the Retiree Community.” Having something to do is the only thing that gets them out of their bedroom these days. “
Orchard Park offers plenty of activities for residents, such as art and physical therapy, but that wasn’t enough to get residents involved.
When the residents were finally able to reunite, the piano they sang on, played by Jean Wood, broke. The piano notes were wrong, making it difficult for residents to sing the high notes. Wood didn’t want to sit idly by while her students suffered without the music – she made it her mission to raise money for a new piano.
Wood enlisted the help of the Chapel in the Hills Women’s Guild, where she is also the Music Director. The women in her group were eager to help within days, they donated more money than she asked for.
“They were so excited they kept thanking me,” Wood said of the residents of Orchard Park. “I’m saying I’m not doing anything special, I’m just doing what I’m supposed to do.”
The piano brought a lot of joy to the residents. The afternoon gathering had 14 residents seated in the room, practicing songs from the early 1900s such as April Showers, and raising their voices and volume as high as possible. Some clapped if they couldn’t keep singing, but a woman couldn’t keep her enthusiasm.
Irene Nixon has been a singer since childhood, when she was part of a quartet with her sisters. When April Showers’ lyrics ended, there were only two things left; Nixon’s music and voice, echoing the lyrics.
“We have a soloist,” Wood joked with the band, “her name is Irene. It’s amazing that someone our age has so much air.
Nixon was finally called out of the room before the practice was over, and as she walked out the door, her mouth kept moving, singing the songs she loved.
“Anything that can cheer them up and get them out of their lives and give them pride in what they’re doing,” said Wood, “they were having a blast. when you get older When you have nothing new for several days, you become depressed.