The residents of a local retirement home in London, Ontario are a YouTube sensation! With over 920,000 video views these seniors are having fun and staying young. While Beyoncé receives harsh criticism for lip syncing “The Star Spangled Banner” at the inauguration ceremony for President Obama, the residents of the Waverley Mansion are receiving rave reviews from around the world for their lip syncing videos.
My guest Q&A is Sarah Urquhart, Recreation Coordinator for The Waverley Mansion. I had the pleasure talking to her about the residents and how music
Tell us about Waverley Retirement Residence
The Waverley Mansion was built in 1882 and was home to Charles Goodhue. In 1893, the Waverley was sold to Thomas Smallman, a successful businessman, first in Imperial Oil, and then in finance (London Life). The building gained fame later on as the home of the Shute Institute, which pioneered the medical application of Vitamin E. In 1987, a modern extension was added to facilitate the Waverley’s transformation into a retirement home, which it still is today. It is owned and operated by Diversicare Canada Management Services. We are a small home (60 rooms) with a big heart. The Victorian architecture in the building makes for a very warm family feeling that you get as soon as you walk in the doors.
What inspired you to create YouTube videos featuring the residents of the Waverley?
I am so lucky to be the Recreation Coordinator for residents who just love to participate in activities! Many of them still live an independent lifestyle, and are always looking for new things to do. The videos began as a way to educate our residents into the more modern culture that someone such as myself (a 25 year old) is so accustomed to. I thought that putting the video together and getting onto YouTube would be a great way to introduce them to the World Wide Web.
I knew there were numerous benefits to doing a parody video. In the recreation field, every program you have has some sort of “play with a purpose” behind it. For example, Wii bowling is great fun, but it also promotes physical activity and enhances eye hand coordination. The parody videos have created a fellowship between the residents, enhancing more social activity. The videos also have participants engaged in physical activity (I got tired just watching them do “Gangnam Style”) and their cognitive skills are put to work. It may be easy for you to memorize the chorus to a song, or even one line, but to someone who is in their 80s or 90s, it’s a bit more of a challenge.
What do the residents think about their videos?
They just love them! While some may not like to be in the video, they get just as much out of them by just watching them! They cannot believe the publicity and the responses we have received from them. After “Call Me Maybe” came out, we received phone calls from all over the world (New York, Brazil, Japan, England) from people just to congratulate our residents on a job well done! They’ve had gifts sent to them, DVD responses from children, interviews with numerous TV stations, been shown on international news, and recently received handmade cards from children in South Korea! My favorite part is hearing stories about the residents going out shopping, or getting their hair done, or anything out in the community, and someone recognizing them from the videos. It has been so rewarding.
Did you have any idea your videos would go viral?
No idea! None of us did. “Call Me Maybe” was uploaded onto YouTube so family members would have an easy way to access it. Who knew that a bunch of people in their 80s and 90s could create such a buzz!
Your videos are very professional looking. Were they expensive or time consuming to make?
Well thank you. The only cost to making the videos were the DVDs I purchased to make copies! All together I probably put 10-12 hours into each video. The Residents and I start by going over the lines to the song numerous times. Afterwards, “dance moves” are taught, and then they both are put together. After we get that down pat (not as easy as it sounds, lol) I film each take 3 times so I have different footage to choose from. Then I go home and edit them on my computer.
Were the residents familiar with social media before you started to create the YouTube videos?
Lol! I had some Residents tracking the videos on YouTube more than I was and also secretly watching “Gangnam Style” to perfect the dance moves. Others asked me what channel YouTube was on, so the familiarity varied from one end to the other.
How did you pick the songs for the videos?
“Call Me Maybe” was chosen because it’s catchy and simple. The lyrics aren’t too fast, and the words are easy to remember and get stuck in your head, making it perfect to teach seniors. After that, “Gangnam Style” was chosen because it was a song that a lot of our “fans” were requesting. The “Christmas Song” is such a cute song, I thought it paired nicely with our Residents, and our Valentine’s video…. oh wait, you’re going to have to wait until February 1st to find out what that is!
Do the residents want to create more videos?
Yes, yes, yes! Until they get bored of them, the goal is to put one video out on the first of every month. We just finished our Valentine’s Day video so that will be on YouTube at the beginning of February (have a Kleenex or two with you when you watch it, it’s simply beautiful), and we’ve been storyboarding what we’ll be doing for St. Patty’s Day in March!
What advice can you give business owners who are afraid to use social media for their businesses?
My advice to them is to get over it! Social media is nothing but beneficial towards a business, and if you do it right, it can be very cost effective as well. If you look at “Call Me Maybe” as an example, that video has been viewed over 860,000 times; with our phone number and showing our home in the background, and that didn’t cost any money to make! If Social media isn’t something you’re familiar with don’t be scared, the internet is a fantastic thing! Take a course or learn from others, because in this day and age, it will only become more of a necessity for businesses.
About Sarah Urquhart
Sarah attended Fanshawe College and graduated from the Recreation and Leisure Services Program. She had two Recreation jobs right out of school, and only a few months later was hired as the Recreation Manager at the Waverley, and has been there for two years. Her background in Musical Theatre, Broadcasting and Social Planning has become the perfect combination, making her the Recreation Coordinator she has become today.