“The most fun I ever had with my clothes on!”

It is a privilege to be able to run music (mainly drumming) groups with people of varying ages in often vulnerable settings such as psychiatric hospitals and care homes.  I would like to share some recent comments from group members which I believe some readers will find inspiring.

On the first Monday of each month we have a drumming group at a care home for the elderly in North London.  The residents sit in a large semi circle and depending on mobility have a djembe or conga in front of them, a set of bongos on a table or hand percussion.  We generally start off with a three or four stroke rhythm and then play along to some of their favourite music like Dean Martin, Glenn Miller or Cuban music that I bring in such as Ibrahim Ferrer.  Recently one or two of the residents have started playing rhythms that they remember from their dancing days – one week it was a Bolero and most recently a Cha – cha- cha.  This can lead to much discussion as to the roots of these rhythms and at our most recent session, a spontaneous drum / sing a long.

The residents are a delight to be with and I always leave feeling humbled and touched.  Never more so than after January’s group when one lady came up to me after the group and whispered in my ear “97 years old, and I’ve just started drumming today” she said, “you know dear, it’s never too late.”

On the EET Music website there is a picture of a 90 year old lady – Mary – who joined us for a public drumming group in Brentford in 2012 and in December I met two ladies at the care home who were twins also aged 90.  The gentleman who played the Cha – cha – cha told me he is also 90 and when lucky enough to meet these people I either ask them or they share with me without being asked…what is it all about?  What advice would they give?  Instead of writing what they don’t say I’d rather put what they do say:

Find God and have a relationship with him / her / it.  (Mary actually said “Find Jesus” but usually it is ‘God’.

Look after your health.

Take some time for yourself, learn how to enjoy life and relax.

….and that is pretty much what it usually comes down to.  It’s quite tempting to say

” See, they don’t say this is important and that’s important” but it will mean more without my opinions attached, that way you can fill in your own spaces.

Now the title of this blog is not unrelated to the content…promise!

Today we had our regular Tuesday afternoon drumming group in a psychiatric hospital, also in North London.  We played the rhythms of ‘Djole’ a mask dance from Sierra Leone and after the group I asked the patients how they felt.  One lady who had such a wonderful spirit and energy said “Well I’m 58 and that’s the most fun I’ve ever had with my clothes on!”

Teenagers who often wish today was their last day alive, people who live with H.I.V. who don’t know if they will see another year and people in their 90’s who don’t know if today will be their last day but who may actually be around longer than some of the people up to 80 years younger.

I am blessed to be able to bring some richness to their life’s and they give me so much more in return.  I have obstacles to overcome every day so please don’t think I live in some utopian dream state, far from it!  However I am constantly striving for self realisation and to help others become inspired by life and to realise themselves.

After today’s group the lady mentioned above found me in the hospital reception and gave me a card which sits on the desk as I write this.  On the front is a line from the great Mark Twain and to him I leave the last words:

‘Age is an issue of mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.’