Moorestown’s Brandywine Senior Living has a unique program that no other Brandywine facility has, but brings a lot of happiness to the seniors.
The program is a group choir of residential seniors called the Silvertones. The Silvertones bring the residents together for a fun singing activity that promotes togetherness, commitment and overall enjoyment in a musical way. Coming up soon is their next concert on Sunday, April 24, and they’re ready to sing into spring.
“This is one activity they come to all the time. They do not miss this for anything. They make friends in the choir … It doesn’t matter how they sing, it just matters that they’re together,” said Sharyn Strauss Blatstein, escapades expert and choir director.
“I love the Silvertones. I’m proud to sing and proud of everyone else singing,” member Agnes Maggi-Carsten said.
The Silvertones, which got its name from the silver-haired residents, began a little more than five years ago around Christmas. Blatstein was to coordinate one of Brandywine’s programs called Curtain Call. However, residents didn’t want to act, they wanted to sing. So Blatstein asked corporate for permission and was given the go ahead.
The group of about 17 residents got together, practiced some Christmas music and went around the hall knocking on doors and singing songs. Blatstein said she wheeled those who were in wheelchairs all by herself from door to door.
Since then, the Silvertones have grown. They sing four concerts a year to a crowd of about 200 to 300 people. They even won an award from Brandywine Senior Living for their hard work.
“It’s always standing-room-only. It’s amazing,” Blatstein said. “Their families and peers are so proud of them.”
All Brandywine seniors are allowed to join each year, but must take an oath before joining — that they will never miss a practice, which is every Wednesday and Saturday.
The members are on average about 92 years old, Blatstein said. There are a variety of people from various backgrounds, including a professional singer and dancer.
Many members of the group started singing when they were young, in school and church, and continue to enjoy it. But some haven’t really had the experience.
Regina Huber was one senior who hadn’t really sung before, but decided to join the choir because of her love for music. Marie Nitti, a newer member to the Silvertones, moved here from Massachusetts and absolutely loves the choir.
“I love it; I love music. It’s only my second year here and having been in the choir. I was so happy I could come in and sing,” Nitti said.
One notable member of the Silvertones is Lillette Pettus, a 101-year-old and 50-year resident of Moorestown.
She has been at Brandywine for seven years and was one of the original members of the Silvertones. She said she loves to sing and gets a lot of enjoyment from the choir.
All members said they get a variety of things from being a part of the Silvertones.
“I get happiness and satisfaction, while making other people happy. It brings a lot of company to each other and it brings families together,” Fran Staniszewski said.
“It’s good for the spirit and we feel the satisfaction of improving,” Howard Norris said.
“It’s an insatiable cure … ‘music has charms to soothe the savage beast,’” said Frank Delia, quoting William Congreve.
For every concert, Silvertone members as well as Blatstein create a theme. Many of the songs are older ones the members know, including “Moonlight Bay,” “Let a Smile be your Umbrella,” “Moon River” and “Love Letters.”
However, Blatstein makes sure to throw in at least one newer song for them to learn, such as “Here Comes the Sun,” “Yesterday” and “Rainbow Connection.”
Blatstein said she had to be sure to choose songs that were a bit slower so residents could pick them up more quickly and feel comfortable with the music.
“It can be hard for them (with faster songs) … I want them to shine. I really care for them,” Blatstein said.
“It’s a good way to keep busy. As you get older, you get discouraged sometimes,” Richard Stecher said.
Every concert is decked out for the occasion, and has refreshments afterward.
The April 24 concert will be held 2 p.m. at Brandywine Senior Living in Moorestown, at 1205 N. Church St., in the library. Friends, families, neighbors and peers are all invited to the concert. Those interested in coming are asked to call Brandywine at (856) 778–0600 and speak to Susan Sacks, escapades producer, to RSVP and get more information.
“Come see what this group is all about,” member Betty McGinley said.