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  • Writer's pictureWorld Half Full

Retiree DJs keeping elders connected


Inside his room at a senior care facility, Bob Coleman knew he couldn't go out into the world during the lockdown. But he could share with the world his first love — country music.

“Hello everybody, it's a bright day in Franklin, Tennessee,” the 88-year-old Air Force veteran crooned 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.”

The hits of Hank Williams, Dwight Yoakam and Brad Paisley began to play, all carefully selected by Coleman, who lives about 30kms out of Nashville.

Coleman is one of several retirees who’ve become DJs for a new online radio hour known as Radio Recliner. The one-hour show began airing in April, starting with quarantined retirees in middle Tennessee. It has since spread to seniors in assisted-living facilities in Georgia and Alabama and others, jumping at the chance to be a DJ after being secluded because of strict physical distancing rules.

The lockdown has left many senior citizens in such facilities not only prohibited from seeing visitors, but also banned from socialising with neighbours across the hall.

The idea of Radio Recliner was kickstarted by local marketing firm Luckie, whose clientele includes Bridge Senior Living, which operates more than 20 senior living properties in 14 states across the US.

After the DJs were recruited, the seniors recorded their introductions and transitions on their phones — many while relaxing on a recliner or at the kitchen table. The audio was then sent to production staffers, who handled the technical side.

Listeners can also send song requests dedicated to family or friends, which are included in the daily show. Fresh content airs every day with past segments playing in rotation.

Mitch Bennett, Luckie’s chief creative officer, said the idea was to provide a sense of community to isolated seniors. “For this generation, radio was the original social media,” he noted. “Dedicating a song to someone you love, and having them hear it along with everyone else, is a special way of connecting.”

In Georgia, 80-year-old Ed Rosenblatt said an hour he spent spinning tunes on Radio Recliner prompted a flood of text messages, emails and calls from friends and family across the country — many of whom he hadn’t heard from in years. “For the past year I’ve been teaching myself how to play the ukulele,” he said. “So at the close of the show, I actually played a song on my ukulele. I sang and played ‘Sloop John B’, the Beach Boys classic.”

ABOVE Bob Coleman, one of several retirees deejaying for Radio Recliner, at his 'recording studio'

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