What It's Like To Play A Gig For The Over Eighties


What's it like to DJ in an old people's home? Our guest writer today found out...

So I'm a part-time DJ from Belgium. I used play at parties, weddings, and so on. My mother moved to a nursing home when she turned 82. She had worked hard all her life and the last couple of years, she didn't get out much any more. Groceries, the hairdresser, that's about it. So she decided to move to a "zorgcentrum" where old people who are still able to take care of themselves can rent a small apartment.

Now, despite the fact that she just turned 84, she's been going to dance evenings, she even went on a week trip to the seaside -it's like she's starting all over again. So when then wanted to organise another event, I decided to volunteer to DJ for them. They took me up on my offer and one afternoon, I got to play in front of more than 80 people over the age of 80. So here's what happened...

The first part was singalong. I handed out the lyrics and I used a beamer to project the words on a big screen. People could even come over to sing into the microphone (and some did, while afterwards I heard a lot of them wanted to but were to shy).

After the coffee break, it was dancing time. Of course, "them old folk" aren't as nimble on their feet as they were in their youth, but it gave me a very warm feeling when I saw couples who've been together for more than 50 years come to the dancefloor for a slow waltz or a romantic slow. And I was thrilled when a couple of 90-year-old ladies came on to the dancefloor to waltz to their favorite song "Mexicali Rose".

I did not get paid for the gig, but it was one of the most rewarding sets I ever played. So If you can give old people a good time, even when you're not paid for it... do it. And if you actually do get paid, I promise you, it'll be even more fulfilling as some extra cash in your wallet, because your heart will be warmed too.

What's the oldest crowd you've ever played for? Any more tips for DJing to octogenarians? Please share your experiences below...

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  1. Stacey PopJukebox says:

    What a great idea! Thank you for sharing your experience. I've never even thought of this, but as a DJ who loves oldies, big band and swing, this would be a great way to play what I love while brightening someone else's day. Thanks again!

  2. DJ AndreaNegri says:

    I Played on a 60th birthday party and it was great!
    Better than younger guys.

  3. Dj Snowbro says:

    The "old ones" are indeed a more thankfull audience. No mean drunks demanding their requests, no hipsters only interested in being cool and showing off, taking selfies and posting them online. Just sweet people singing along, clapping their hands and dancing.

    A few tips.
    - Don't play fast music. 80+'rs don't have the stamina to stay on the dancefloor to long, especially when the tempo is a bit fast (and more than 122bpm is already fast to them) . 1 or 2 songs and it's back to their seats for a much needed rest. Don't expect them to jive around to "Rock around the clock" for the whole afternoon. Sometimes, even when they know the song and used to dance to it when they were young, they're just to old to do it now.
    - Know your classics (Tom Jones, Humperdinck, Nat King Cole,...and the local singalong hits from 'yonder days'
    - Talk to the people, ask them what they want to hear. Be social. Sometimes, when people don't know the dj, they tend to be more reserved. By getting to know them and show them that you're just a normal guy, people open up more easily.
    - The dj market isn't overcrowded with dj's who are willing and able to play oldies, swing, big band, slow waltz music, etc so why not give it a try?

    I already got two new gigs lined up. This time, I even get paid! I bought the request I didn't have last week, so I will be making some old timers happy again.

  4. Wow, what an amazing story.
    I've got to hand it to you, you've got some serious courage.
    I honestly don't think I'd be able to do a gig for a crowd that old.
    Well done, and thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Ran Flagg says:

    Super! Credits for you, zouden meer mensen moeten doen

  6. Darryl Sims says:

    Yes awesome to hear Snowbro!,
    i recently did a 60th and it was great too, but don't forget about the other end of the spectrum...Kids. My wife and I started a kids Rave party business a couple of years ago and we are killing it. It seems no body else can be bothered putting in any effort for kids. As soon as we do 1 gig we get booked for 5 more and we are now doing pretty much all the schools and it keeps growing. The only difference between us and the dj's we are replacing is the EFFORT we put in to our gigs. We also do free fund raiser gigs. Last year we did a free gig for a boy who has brain cancer at the local school, we raised nearly $3000 for the struggling family.

    I totally agree with you mate ,there is nothing better than seeing the beaming faces of the kids( or oldies)
    as they are ripping up the dance floor. I would much rather play to a bunch of kids or oldies that are having a great time than at some wedding that nobody really wants to be at.

    I'd say to anyone who wants to do something different, give the kids a go! We play popper rave music with big builds and massive drops and the kids go nuts! Great work Snowbird, keep it up!


    • Dj Snowbro says:

      Hey Daz & Miss Daz, I also have some experience with dj'ing for kids, but nowhere near like you. What you & your wife do is fantastic ! EDM dj's are a dime a dozen, so if you want to earn some cash, you have to find the hole in the market. And doing gigs for free shows you have a big heart. I don't think I could play for kids, as I'm not experienced in that field. Sometimes, when I play ay parties where there are kids, they come up to me and ask songs that I've never heard of and I would hate to disappoint them. But hey, maybe with some help and tips from you, I can organize some kid rave parties too, Kiddibull instead of champagne, Smarties instead of XTC, sounds like fun ! Great work !!

      PS it's Snowbro, not Snowbird, but hey, I'll give that name to my girlfriend 😉

  7. Eric Eubanks says:

    What an awesome way to give back to the folks that paved the way for us! I often DJ events for several of our older church members. Seeing them get down to songs like "Green Onions" and "The Twist" IS very rewarding, as these folks have a genuine appreciation for music...and life! Thanks for sharing Snowbro!

  8. This is how I started to DJ! At an 80th birthday party for friend's grandpa. I did the slideshow for the family and a grandson who was a DJ wanted to play Pandora all night. I brought my laptop with djay Pro and my tunes as a backup. The so callled DJ bored the heck out of them. I ended up taking over and dj'd the whole thing and the entire family had a blast. James Brown, Elvis, you name it. I'm considered part of the family and grandpa thanks me every time we see each other. They know lots of people and can definitely get you referrals. Love the karaoke idea to get them all involved :)

    • Dj Snowbro says:

      Yow JFunk,
      I'm sure you'll agree that it's a lot more fun to play for older people (and judging by what Darryl Sims from LilRavers says) and for younger people too, than for 16 year old know it alls and hipsters who don't even know you're there or think you're that guy they can shout their orders to. Most of the "new" dj's are in to it because dj'ing is cool. They don't have the musical background that older people do (aaah, at last one advantage of not being 20 anymore) so give those dj's the hip stuff, I'm glad to do the "gratefull" stuf :)

  9. Whats Up Guys
    Well i moved down to Florida five years ago and three years ago i picked up a gig that a fellow DJ couldn't
    Do anymore . So i have been doing it ever since the company hire's me for four gig's they are at Kings Point & Century Village they are assisted living and non assisted .So to the gig itself i always start the guest out slow. i play polka, waltzes, Samba, mambo. Big Band then i put on some line dances and some disco. Don't under estimate them they are there to have a good time and listen to some music .

    • Dj Snowbro says:

      I've heard there are a lot of older people in Florida, enjoying their retirement? (I don't know if that's actually true, never been there), but I'm sure they enjoy you playing their kinda music. Say hi to them from Belgium, the land of beer, Brussels sprouts, wafles and chocolate !)

  10. I do this annually for my mom, who is in her early 70's. The difference is that she's a calypso/reggae/R&B person. I love the heavy bass of studio one tracks and reggae in general. I don't know where she gets the energy, but she can out dance people half her age, especially with fast calypso. She even received a trophy 2 months ago for best dancer at a party she attended. My friends are always amazed.

    Coincidentally, her annual party is tonight and I will be playing.

    • Dj Snowbro says:

      Just read about your mom, that's fantastic. I'm sure you enjoy your mom as much as I enjoy mine. She's a little bit older (84) and she's not as fit as she used to be (thank you cigarettes) but she still enjoys herself, and what can make us more happy than to see our mom 's enjoying themselves! Give her a big calypso hug from Belgium!

  11. Brandi Delagarza says:

    Been playing for this population for years and while some are unable to dance fast music, it most certainly isn't true of all over 80, not even necessarily most. I play regularly at retirement communities, senior centers, private parties, etc. My own mother is in her mid 90s and loves to dance, cumbias, salsa, cupid shuffle and other line dances, oh and yes, sometimes she can still handle rock around the clock oldies. She and many others in her age group still can and do. I love DJing at these type places. My absolute favorite. :-)

    • Dj Snowbro says:

      Your mom is in her mid 90's and she still rocks the dancefloor? Fantastic! I'm sure you are as proud of het as she is of her son, the great dj who let's the old folk party again !!

  12. hypnotik soundz says:

    Great story. Personally i prefer to play for middle aged and older persons. Not as demanding and alot more polite. lol

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