JC Hayward interviews Alan Yellowitz, founder of The Beat Goes On.
The Fold-Washington Post's Brook Silva-Braga shares The Post Video Journalist, Zoeann Murphy's report.
If you thought activities in senior living communities are limited to Bingo and Bridge, then you have not met Alan Yellowitz. Alan facilitates drum circles in a rapidly growing number of retirement, assisted and nursing centers in the Washington, D.C. Metro region.
Alan’s story is all too common; in 2009 he was downsized from his job in the information technology field. After spending considerable time and energy looking for similar work, he started to think about changing his career path and other entrepreneurial ideas and business opportunities.
One of the paths Alan followed was an idea of creating a concierge service designed to specifically assist seniors and family caregivers. Alan's passion for drums for over 30 years sparked the idea to organize drum circles in senior living communities.
In less than a month Alan secured his first “Rhythm Enrichment Program” at a senior living community and launched the company, "The Beat Goes On."
One of the first communities to take a chance on Alan’s innovative concept was Sunrise at Bluemont Park. Activity Director Danielle Nelson says, “It was a huge hit with all of our residents, from independent living to those with memory impairment.”
The staff is equally enthusiastic about the unique activity. When the drum circle is in full swing it is common to see several staff members joining in, dancing in the hallways or sharing a drum with the residents. “Seeing the success of the drum circles inspires you to think outside the box when planning activities,” says Danielle Nelson.
"The Beat Goes On" is signing up new communities every week and has been enthusiastically asked to return by nearly every community at which they have conducted a drum circle. Although his new venture has not replaced his previous income, he says, “It’s a dream come true to be sharing my passion for drumming and music with others in such a positive manner.”
“A few weeks ago I had the privilege to attend a drum circle conducted by “The Beat Goes On” at Sunrise at Bluemont Park. In all my years of visiting communities I don’t think I have witnessed such a unique activity.
The activity started the moment they would start unpacking and setting up drums. Many of the residents were asking him questions about the drums and he would share information about their design and history.
Once the drum circle started, I moved throughout the community to get different video shots. Everyone I passed in the hallway was either tapping their feet or grooving to the beat. It was great to glance into an office and see someone working behind a desk bobbing their head to the beat. I am excited that the community is planning to have “The Beat Goes On” come back when some local elementary schools students are visiting. I think it will be truly a memorable experience for the children and the elders!”
Local senior community activity directors couldn’t agree more, and have seen with their own eyes the mind-and-body benefits that “The Beat Goes On” drum circles have brought to their communities.
“The Beat Goes On is bringing this beautiful world of music to [residents] in a therapeutic way. I look at them more as a music therapist rather than an entertainer,” said Terri Adams, activity director for Brighton Gardens of Friendship Heights, a Sunrise assisted living community in Chevy Chase, Md. “They don’t come in here [as a performer], drumming themselves. It’s the residents that are in the spotlight, entertaining, enjoying and beating these drums.”
“Their energy and enthusiasm are contagious,” said Danielle Nelson, volunteer and activity coordinator at Sunrise at Bluemont Park in Arlington, Va. “[The residents], many of whom in this group had memory impairments, were very engaged, very involved, hitting the drums. I saw how well they all beat together, and I was very impressed by that.”