My mom’s been living in her assisted living center for nine years now, which means I’ve dropped by there somewhere around a thousand times. Beyond the fact that some of Mom’s fellow residents don’t seem all that much older than I am, one of the main things I notice about Ridgeview Place over in Sauk Rapids is the background music. (That figures, eh?)
There’s a CD player in a small sitting room adjacent to the foyer, and there’s another one upstairs in what’s called the Great Room, where the folks who live at Ridgeview Place gather for musical performances by community groups and presentations by visitors. (Travel tales with photos and videos are a big hit.) It’s also where the folks gather monthly for a Happy Hour – some wine, crackers and cheese – and where they play bingo twice a week. (Mom told me on the phone yesterday afternoon that she’d just won that day’s blackout game; she netted two dollars.)
When the Great Room isn’t hosting an event, though, music comes quietly from the CD player there, and the CD player in the sitting room seems to be playing tunes through the day.
So what is it the folks at Ridgeview Place are hearing? Well, you’d think it was 1942 or maybe 1948, which makes some sense. On my regular walks through the foyer, I hear a lot of Big Band stuff, recognizing on occasion some Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. I was waiting to talk to the director the other afternoon, and as I sat there, I heard a nice rendition of “I’ll Be Seeing You.” I’m not sure whose version it was, except that it was neither the Bing Crosby version nor the Tommy Dorsey version (with a vocal by Frank Sinatra), both of which were big hits in 1944.
There are moments when the time focus slides a little bit further into the Twentieth Century: I’m pretty sure that the other day I heard Percy Faith’s 1953 hit “The Song From Moulin Rouge (Where Is Your Heart),” and there have been a few other moments when I’ve heard something that comes from the easy listening files of the late 1950s or even the early 1960s. And that makes some sense. If we assume that the idea is to present the music of the residents’ youth (when they were, say, fifteen to twenty-two) and the current residents range in age from, oh, seventy-five to ninety-three (my mother’s age), then the years from which the music would be drawn would range from 1936, when my mom was fifteen, to 1962, when a seventy-five year old resident would have been twenty-two.
That ending date – 1962 – might be a bit recent. During my trips through the lobby – and they’re brief though frequent – I’ve not yet heard much from the late 1950s or early 1960s. But I imagine hits from those years are coming: Probably not much Elvis or any Lloyd Price, but certainly the Browns, the McGuire Sisters, some Perez Prado, some Percy Faith and some Floyd Cramer.
The topic came up this morning as I drove the Texas Gal to work. A tune came on WXYG, and she said, “That’s probably what we’ll be hearing when we’re in assisted living.” I laughed and said, “Maybe.” And then I told her that I had not yet heard anything on the Ridgeview Place CD players from the era of the Beach Boys, Lesley Gore and Chubby Checker.
“Well, thank God for that,” she said. “Maybe they’ll skip that era.”
I doubt it. I expect that when folks eight to ten years older than I become the majority of the residents at places like Ridgeview Place, the music in the sitting rooms and activity rooms will include tunes from the Highwaymen, Ferrante & Teicher, the Kingston Trio, Bobby Vee, the Shirelles and other artifacts of the early 1960s.
The more interesting question to me is whether the music in places like Ridgeview Place will follow the shifts in popular music that took place in the 1960s. Will the music by those artists mentioned in the above paragraph be followed in five to ten years by tunes from Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Beatles, Janis Joplin, the Allman Brothers Band and Jimi Hendrix?
That, too, I doubt. I think any music from our era – and my sweet spot stretches from 1967 to 1975 or so – will draw from the softer side: Simon & Garfunkel, the 5th Dimension, Seals & Crofts, Neil Diamond, Carole King and so on. And some years down the road, as I sit as a resident in one of those foyers, even though it would amuse me, I doubt very much that I’ll hear Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “And When I Die.”
Nor, I would think, will I heard the tune that came on WXYG this morning, the one that got the Texas Gal and me talking: the Doors’ 1967 track, “Break On Through (To The Other Side).”