Re­tirees take over air­waves as DJs

Orlando Sentinel - - Nation & World - By Kim­ber­lee Kruesi

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tucked away in­side his room at a se­nior care fa­cil­ity, Bob Cole­man knew he couldn’t go out into the world with the coro­n­avirus rag­ing. 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 in Somerby Franklin, an as­sisted liv­ing fa­cil­ity about 20 miles south of Nashville.

Cole­man is one of sev­eral re­tirees who have turned into DJs for a new on­line ra­dio hour known as “Ra­dio Re­cliner.”

The 60-minute show be­gan air­ing last month, start­ing with quar­an­tined re­tirees in mid­dle Ten­nessee. It has since taken off, as much the pro­duc­tion side as among lis­ten­ers, with se­niors in as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties in Ge­or­gia, Alabama and oth­ers jump­ing at the chance to be a DJ af­ter be­ing se­cluded be­cause of strict so­cial dis­tanc­ing rules.

Older adults are the age group most at risk from the new coro­n­avirus. This has left many older peo­ple in as­sisted-liv­ing fa­cil­i­ties not only pro­hib­ited from see­ing out­side visitors, but also from socializin­g with neigh­bors across the hall.

The idea of Ra­dio Re­cliner was kick-started by At­lanta and Birm­ing­ham­based mar­ket­ing firm Luckie, whose clien­tele in­cludes Bridge Se­nior Liv­ing, which op­er­ates more than 20 se­nior liv­ing prop­er­ties in 14 states.

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

Lis­ten­ers can send song re­quests ded­i­cated to fam­ily or friends, which are in­cluded in the daily show. Fresh con­tent airs week­days at noon, with pre­vi­ous seg­ments play­ing in ro­ta­tion.

Mitch Ben­nett, Luckie’s chief cre­ative of­fi­cer, said the idea was to pro­vide a sense of com­mu­nity to iso­lated se­niors.

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.

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