Faces of Christmas: Prestige Singing Seniors

December 24, 2013 

The basics: Members of the singing group are all residents at Prestige Assisted Living at Visalia. Nick Jones, 33, activities director at Prestige Assisted Living, founded the group in October 2012.

What the group does: The group travels throughout the central San Joaquin Valley, giving performances at hospitals, elementary schools, preschools, skilled-nursing facilities, mobile-home communities and churches.

The song selection is tailored to the audience.

In October, the Prestige Singing Seniors sang children's songs, including "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," at Children's Hospital Central California.

In December, the group went on a Christmas Karaoke Tour, singing Christmas carols and other traditional holiday songs.

The group averages about 12 members. Their ages range from the 70s to 90s. Dorothea Schletewitz, 95, is the group's current senior member. Some members sing from wheelchairs.

Why the group does it:The group wants to touch the lives of others.

"They love giving enjoyment to others," Jones said. "They still have a lot left in them. They are by no means finished. They like giving back to others."

The singers feel a sense of satisfaction that their songs are therapeutic for some people experiencing health issues or other problems.

Turning point:Singing has been a big part of Jones' life. He and his wife Sonya are a singing duo, Music With the Jones.

When he joined the staff at Prestige Assisted Living, he took note that residents enjoyed listening to a resident, Wayne Snell, who occasionally sang to others. Snell had sung in quartets.

So Jones talked with Snell about the idea of starting a singing group made up of Prestige Assisted Living residents. Others quickly joined the group.

"When you hear someone else, you're more apt to do it," Jones said.

Details, details:In November, the group practiced every week to prepare for its Christmas Karaoke Tour.

Jones booked 15 performances, mainly in the South Valley. They included a 15-minute introduction to the Christmas Pageant at St. Rose-McCarthy Catholic School in Hanford on Dec. 18. The tour ended Christmas Eve with a performance at Redwood Springs Healthcare Center in Visalia.

What others say:Singer LeAnn Rimes gave members backstage access when she performed at Tachi Palace Hotel and Casino in Lemoore in December 2012.

Jim Wohlford, a Visalian who played baseball in the major leagues, bought tickets for the group to attend pop/rock singer Neil Sedaka's concert at The Big Fresno Fair in October. And Sedaka provided backstage passes for the group members.

How you can help:The group accepts financial donations. Details: (559) 572-9291.

-- Ron Orozco

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