By Emily McIntyre
When it comes to picturing what goes on at The Belvedere assisted living facility, a video of senior citizens dancing to Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” doesn’t exactly first come to mind.
Program activity Director Stephanie Gumina had been shown a similar video by a co-worker next door at Rae-Ann Suburban, and decided that “Happy” would be the perfect song to use for a music video with Belvedere residents. Since posted on YouTube by Gumina in February, the parody, which can be seen at http://youtu.be/kCkC9T8QsfE, has earned over 14,000 views.
“I basically just put it on social media, and, well, all the family members started sending it to other family members,” she explained. “One of our family members, her family actually lives in Ireland, and they got to see it.”
It didn’t take long for hospital workers, waiters of restaurants where the residents often dine and others to recognize familiar faces from the video.
In addition to social media, The Belvedere’s marketing director, Carleen Broberg, distributed DVDs to not only promote the video, but also the environment of the facility.
“Even in your 80s and 90s, the dynamics of being human and social are exactly the same,” Broberg said. “They come here and they don’t realize there’s still another life waiting for them.”
One resident from the video, Ernest “Ernie” Bell, stopped by to chat while Tim McGraw’s song “Live Like You Were Dying” ironically played on the lobby’s radio.
“Happy, happy, happy!” the 95-year-old exclaimed as he settled into his seat.
Although Bell is quite the music lover (he sang in the glee club at St. Louis University and serenades with Sinatra karaoke today), he claimed this “Happy” video was different from anything he’s ever done.
“I feel that this activity has kept me, particularly trying to learn those lyrics, has kept my brain from deteriorating. You’ve got to keep your brain active,” Bell said.
With slight hesitation, he added, “I guess I act kind of crazy around this place.”
Gumina and Broberg erupted with laughter.
Gumina, who has been with The Belvedere for at least five years, is already working on a video for the song “Summer Nights” from the musical “Grease.” She said her main focus every day is to make the residents laugh, and the best part about her job is being able to flip someone’s day around, transitioning them from a bad mood into a positive one.