Bob Rowe sings
with seniors- They are his sunshine...
(article by Phyllis Rose, The Kalamazoo
The bright sunshine wasn't needed to warm the
residents of the Provincial House- Portage, Michigan. Instead
their hearts were warmed by the performance of entertainer Bob
Rowe of Renaissance Enterprises.
Clapping and singing along with old favorites
such as "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," and "You are My
Sunshine," the residents didn't want him to stop.
"Can't you come every day?" pleaded a voice
from the front row.
This was Rowe's third performance at
Provincial House in recent months and one of about 40
performances he will be giving in nursing homes throughout the
state of Michigan during the coming year. His performances are
being sponsored through a state program designed to bring
professional entertainment to nursing homes.
Rowe has been doing concerts in nursing homes
on his own for a number of years. "I started doing it at
Christmastime primarily," he says. "It was about the only time I
could because I was on the road eight months a year doing
He views the new program, which allows him to
perform in nursing homes, as a blessing. "I had thought and
prayed for quite some time about how nice it would be to have
the funds available to do what I do at Christmastime throughout
the rest of the year," he said.
Filling this need is in line with what Rowe
calls his "sense of mission" in his performances. "What I try to
do for people," he said, "is to give them their dignity, to let
them know how special they are as individuals and that age and
conditions in life, such as poverty or illness or whatever,
can't rob them of that if they don't let it."
His performances have the individual touch.
As he walks about the room singing along with the residents, he
stops and kneels in front of one, singing directly to her.
"You're so smiley, I love it,'' he says to
another, who responded to Rowe's own bright smile.
"I think it's the personal contact that they
really love," said Rowe.
His choice of songs for the performances also
reflects the needs of his audience. "I do an awful lot of
recognizable standards,'' he said, "like Good Night, Irene,"
"When I Grow Too Old to Dream" and "Oh, Danny Boy, "things that
touch their hearts and maybe bring back fond recollections of an
era when their lives were thriving and they were raising a
His corny jokes, as he calls them, bring
smiles to his audience as well. "I swallowed my Oil of Olay, so
that's why I look so good at 95," he says, as he laughs with the
Although he is years younger than his
audiences at Provincial House and other nursing homes, Rowe
enjoys performing for them.
"What I've seen so much in this age group,"
he said, "that does make it more enjoyable and more effective
too, is that at this stage of life, people have learned so much,
and have such a wealth of knowledge about life, about why
they're here and what really matters and what doesn't."
"They realize, I think, that all that matters
is how many people do you love and how many people do you allow
to love you."
He has to work harder, he says, to establish
contact with younger audiences. "Younger audiences seem to feel
that they have to put a facade up," he explained.
"I think that's what these wonderful folks
realize when they're 80, 90,100 years old and a bit younger is
that the facades don't matter anymore, and maybe they never
really did, and it's time to be themselves."