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Cable series brings fun to nursing homes

‘For the love of seniors’ show brings entertainment back to the elderly starting Monday

Life in a nursing home can be lonely at times, even under the best of circumstances.

With lockdowns in place to protect vulnerable senior citizens from the deadly COVID-19 virus, residents not only are being kept away from their families but also from the entertainers who regularly perform at the facilities.

“For the Love of Seniors in Ohio’s Nursing Homes” will try to fill that entertainment void. Starting Monday on Armstrong Cable’s Community Neighbors channels 20 and 100, it will broadcast at 2:30 p.m. weekdays programs featuring many of the local singers and musicians residents are used to seeing live.

It also will broadcast exercise and religious offerings.

“Everything is shut down with social distancing and shelter in place,” said Maureen McCarty, events coordinator for facilities in the Mercy Health system. “Many of the residents have cognitive challenges and don’t understand what’s going on. They can’t see their families and don’t have the structure that helps them function. We wanted to come up with a way to give them some entertainment and a diversion.”

The idea started with a conversation between McCarty and Dan Rossi, who goes to nursing homes to say the rosary with residents. He wanted to make a DVD or CD that residents could use in their rooms, but many don’t have CD / DVD players or know how to operate them.

“But they all know how to work their TVs,” McCarty said.

She contacted Greg Rhoton, community marketing and program manager for Armstrong Cable, which serves most of Mahoning and parts of Trumbull counties, and he offered the time slots on the Community Neighbors channels, which are available on all tiers of service and at all the nursing homes / assisted living / retirement communities covered by the cable system.

PERFORMERS

Next she started calling performers.

“They all responded enthusiastically,” McCarty said.

One of the first performers she contacted was John Reese, who connected her with Jack Ciarniello, who plays in Reese’s band and also operates TakeNote Productions, a recording studio in Austintown.

“My wife and daughter and I have entertained in nursing homes for a number of years,” Ciarniello said. “As a family we absolutely get so much enjoyment and return when we go out to these senior living facilities. They look forward to the shows all week long … The appreciation and joy from the residents is just palpable.”

Singer and piano player Todd Cutshaw of Howland was one of the first performers to record his act at TakeNote.

“I just looked at the camera as if I had people watching me,” Cutshaw said. “The only negative thing was I don’t get the feedback, how people are reacting. But I know the songs I’ve picked are favorites. I’ve done it for so long. If I give them a sing-along spot in a song, I know it’s the spot where they’ll usually sing it.”

Canfield singer Donnie Abraham said he took a similar approach.

“I talk to the camera like they’re there,” Abraham said. “The biggest difference is I’m not there holding their hands, seeing the expressions on their faces. But I’ve seen it before, and I imagine they’re going to be singing and clapping their hands as if we were really there.

“I’ve been doing nursing homes, retirement communities for the last five years now. Entertainment plays an important role for these people to escape for a while, even an hour.”

CONTRIBUTIONS

McCarty is seeking sponsorships and contributions to help cover the cost of the program and to pay the performers, who have lost an important source of income with the various shutdowns.

“I want to support the entertainers,” McCarty said. “They’re out of work, and I want to pay them well. They’re usually going to multiple nursing homes, not recording one show, to get their incomes.”

Marie Meadors, executive manager of the Ray Boom Boom Mancini Foundation, offered to handle the administrative duties by processing donations through the foundation.

Shows currently are booked through April 21, and McCarty said Armstrong Cable is committed to continuing the series as long as shelter-in-place orders are in effect.

“I hope that this helps raise awareness of how many are hurting in nursing homes and need support during this crisis,” McCarty said. “The focus in our country very much is on the safety of everybody, but we’re getting more toward mental health and taking care of yourself and not being anxious and scared … We’re trying to bring some comfort and support to them during this trying time.”

agray@tribtoday.com

Schedule

Schedule of “For the Love of Seniors in Ohio’s Nursing Homes,” which will air 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. weekdays starting Monday on Armstrong Cable’s Community Neighbor channels 20 and 100. Episodes are scheduled through April 21 and will continue as long as people are “sheltering at home.” The programs also also can be uploaded to the Armstrong Neighborhood Channel YouTube page to view online.

Monday — John Reese Project

Tuesday — Todd Cutshaw

Wednesday — Donnie Abraham Show

Thursday — Ruth Balestra chair excercise class

Friday — Lonnie G

April 13 — Kenny Szenborn chair yoga class

April 14 — Elvis impersonator Ronnie Navarra

April 15 — Rachell Joy

April 16 — Jack, Chrystal and Ruby Ciarniello

April 17 — Dan and Patti Rossi, The Inspirational Rosary

April 20 — Steve Fazzini

April 21 — JD Eicher

Contributions to cover the cost of the program can be sent to the Ray Boom Boom Mancini Foundation, P.O. Box 20, Struthers, Ohio 44471 or by contacting RBBMF Executive Manager Maria Meadors at 330-559-889.

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