Everyday Heroes

This Unlikely Group Is (Sort-of) Breaking The Law To Bring Back The Joy Of Radio

Hear how the music-loving bandits are staying connected to loved ones while sheltering-in-place.

When you think of "pirate" radio, you might imagine a group of criminals huddled in a dark basement sharing rebel fight songs and impassioned speeches about how to overthrow the government. In reality, a pirate radio station (according to Wikipedia) is any station that broadcasts without a valid license.

While that definition still seems a bit vague, we were pleasantly surprised to hear about the group of elderly rule-breakers who are operating a pirate station out of senior living centers across the country.

The idea for the station, cleverly called 'Radio Recliner,' was thought up by the marketing team at Luckie, an Atlanta-based agency, who wanted to give seniors a way to share their love of music, and also to provide them with a resource to use to connect with family and friends while they were under strict quarantine orders due to the coronavirus crisis.

Here's Resident DJ Bob Coleman, aka the "Karaoke Cowboy," introducing a song on Radio Recliner...

"The idea came from thinking about how seniors struggle with feelings of isolation in the best of times," Mitch Bennett, Luckie's CCO, told AdWeek. "Then Covid-19 hit, and residents of senior living centers could no longer get together with friends, share meals, participate in activities, or even have visits from family. With residents spending more time than ever alone in their rooms, we wanted to find a way to help them stay connected. Radio Recliner has been a way to turn radio into a kind of social media."

The internet station currently has 20 resident DJ's who broadcast from senior living communities across the country using cell phone microphones, The DJs take requests and share stories from their lives in between songs.

Nursing home residents all over the country are signing up to be DJs on Radio Recliner. Somerby Franklin/Facebook

One older gentleman talked about his time serving in the U.S. Navy in World War II, and how he once got caught stealing pies from the ship's kitchen.

Another man living in a facility in Ohio shared a more recent memory: "For Memorial Day, we got daiquiris delivered to our rooms. We were only allowed one daiquiri apiece. Hell, I coulda used a LOT more than ONE puny daiquiri, I coulda used a case of Schlitz."

Radio Recliner DJs play their favorite songs, and share stories and dedications from their listeners. Somerby Franklin/Facebook

One of the best parts of the station are the DJ names that the residents choose to distinguish themselves when they're on the air. Silver Fox, Birdman, Chickity Chick, Charming Charlie and Jersey Jack are just a few of the on-air personalities that you'll come to know and love while listening to Radio Recliner.

While Radio Recliner offers up a joyful, welcoming environment to people of all ages, its bringing some much-needed relief to a group that has been suffering from increased levels of loneliness and anxiety over the past few months.

The radio station allows seniors to connect while in isolation. Somerby Franklin/Facebook

"[The station] helps residents feel connected with the world right now where people are relationship starved," Kimberly Stanford, the VP of marketing and advertising at Bridge Senior Living, said. "They are seen as our most vulnerable population, but most of their attitudes are that they have lived through worse and will get through this pandemic. They are such a resourceful generation."

How can you start something good?

You can tune in to Radio Recliner online from 12-3 pm EST every weekday. Listeners can request a song, make a dedication, or sign up to be a resident DJ at this number: 855-863-0050.

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