There is a group of ladies out there and sometimes men who are bringing joy to the elderly in the community. Music is a gateway to the soul, according to Doris Rusnak, who started Doris and the Sunshine Ladies, also known as the The Sunshine Club. The Sunshine Ladies began seven years ago and they have been going strong ever since. Rusnak considers the work she and her group do as a sort of ministry and she relishes the opportunity to share the gift of music with others.
“It’s amazing to see how the residents at some of the care homes respond when they hear the music — you come in and they are grey and withdrawn and by the time you leave they are pink and their eyes are shining,” said Rusnak of the old time tunes they share with the elderly twice a week at care facilities in Agassiz and Chilliwack.
It’s about lifting the spirits of the residents and watching them engage with the music. The music is vibrant and interactive with the Sunshine Ladies adorning a variety of hats and costumes to bring their unique style of music to life.
The members of the group all reside in Agassiz and Harrison, and they enjoy dressing up for the occasion. They consider each performance a special one. The program changes monthly as does the theme and residents can sing along with printed song lists that are provided for them.
“We encourage residents to participate in whatever way they can and you will often see them clapping or swaying with the music,” said Rusnak.
Though the audience is passive at times, they often give their approval with smiles, and a quiet appreciation that emanates throughout the room as they enjoy the performance.
The Sunshine Ladies gives residents an opportunity for an outing and social engagement according to Director of Resident & Employee Wellness Michelle C.M. McQuoid, PhD.
“The Sunshine Ladies brings the gift of music and lively entertainment to our residents. They truly go above and beyond with their colourful costumes and the way they interact with the resident’s during and after each performance,” she said.
Music programs like the one Rusnak offers are essential to enhancing the quality of life in the elderly by helping to keep seniors active with their peers.
“Music is about bringing love to an audience and they can feel that,” says Rusnak. “It’s about connecting with them and sharing music that they will recognize, music that will make them happy.”