Drums help seniors smile at Ohio nursing home

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LIMA, Ohio (AP) — Russ Welker will tell you he technically doesn't do music therapy. But by all accounts, that's exactly what his session served as for a group of nursing home residents.

Residents at Shawnee Manor engaged in ways some hadn't in years when Welker came to the facility. He has been playing drums for 32 years and he goes into senior living homes and centers and interacts with the residents by playing the drums and doing different activities with them.

"It's really unlike any other activity that we do," said Shawnee Manor administrator, Jessica Trinko. "This is sort of multifaceted where he's engaging them and they feel like they're part of the performance. I think that's where they really feel that sense of accomplishment, like they're really contributing to the performance."

Welker calls it a "drum circle," where he passes out drums in all shapes and sizes with mallets for the residents. He goes through all kinds of different activities with them involving the drums, from making different beats and rhythms with the drums to allowing residents to scream as loud as they can.

"I love the environment," Welker said. "There's those days where you lose a friend. That's the tougher part of it. I love making them smile and making them laugh and just forgetting about those four walls for even a little bit."

Most importantly, he allows them to express themselves through the music. He had every resident do a "drum solo" where he made them "close their eyes, smile and shake their booty" while playing the drums.

Welker, from Piqua, got into doing his "drum circle" after he lost his job as a salesman in 2008.

"I actually kind of tripped into it," Welker said. "I'd lost my job in 2008 and basically had to reinvent myself. And I love helping people. So I answered an ad for a nursing home in Troy, Ohio. And after a month or so after being there, the director had came to me and said, 'We're interested in doing a drum circle. Can you do one?' And being in sales, I said 'Yeah!'"

"I had no idea what it was, but I'd been playing drums for most of my life. So I went home and researched it and put it together," he said. "Within weeks of doing my first one at the nursing home I was working at, I had others calling me."

The drum session brought laughter for most and shrieks of delight. In fact, one activity Welker did with residents was for them to burst out into laughter and stop when he said. Almost every time, there were still giggles heard after he motioned to stop.

After the drum session, he sang songs like "You Are My Sunshine" and "Dream" so that the residents could sing along and dance as they please.

Shawnee Manor first came up with the idea of bringing him in after he was recommended by another similar facility's activity director, Trinko said.

"Our activity director had been speaking with another activity director and she had mentioned that they had had him in with such positive results," she said. "And when we first brought him in, we didn't know what to expect. But we were all amazed at the reaction of the residents."

Trinko said the facility brings him in every other month to interact with residents.

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Information from: The Lima News, http://www.limanews.com

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