Theater Program Makes Life More Joyful For Seniors
Michael Matthew Ferrell is an award-winning director and choreographer who empowers seniors through music.
Ten years ago, Michael Ferrell was mentoring a younger performer and met her grandparents. The former theater actor and former opera singer were in their 80s and still very interested in performing but felt no one would be interested in hiring them because of their age. They became Ferrell's inspiration for the non-profit, Alive & Kickin in Minnesota. It aims to "Give Seniors Voice" through performing arts.
Every year the cast of older performers comes together for a live musical performance featuring classic rock songs from bands like Queen and Bon Jovi.
Alive & Kickin performers. Alive & Kickin Facebook
Ferrell believes the music provides healing and rejuvenation for both cast and audience. But performing isn't the only thing he and his multiteam of multi-talented and award-winning theater professionals are focused on.
On the second Monday of every month, Alive & Kickin' hosts a free program called SingOUT in the senior center where their office is located. Groups of seniors from veterans' centers, nursing homes, memory care units and community centers gather for over an hour to sing songs like "Lean On Me" by Bill Withers and "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley.
Much like with his senior production, Ferrell believes the music greatly benefits everyone involved. He's thrilled to see folks with dementia or schizophrenia fully engaged in singing and dancing.
One program participant sticks out to Ferrell. "Dave" was faced with the reality of declining health and became a recluse, refusing to leave his room. When Ferrell heard this, he visited Dave, told him how much he missed having him at SingOUT, and asked if he'd be willing to join the program that day. Dave tearfully agreed. It was the first time he left his room in 3 months. When the program was over, he said, "This is my favorite day of the month and I want to come back."