Bob Rowe sings with seniors- They are his sunshine...
(article by Phyllis Rose, The Kalamazoo Gazette)

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 commercial concerts."

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 family."

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 group.

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."


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