Molly White and her sister Ann Campbell spend a lot of time singing, dancing and playing musical instruments together – for a very specific audience.
For the past 18 years, the sisters have volunteered to entertain senior citizens’ homes across Prince Edward Island.
They say they still perform after all these years because it brings joy to the residents.
“We try to sing songs that they can relate to and that bring back memories for them,” Campbell said. “It’s not about us, it’s about them.”
“One big plus or positive that I’m really looking forward to is the smiles on their faces,” White said.
The sisters both have a background in nursing – specifically working with the elderly.
A few years before Campbell retired in 2008, she worked as a program coordinator at a Charlottetown nursing home. There she and White began performing together.
They call their musical duo “Just Wee Two” because it’s always been just the two of them. White said the “small” part is because they’re both pretty short.
“We [performed] a few years ago, but we were just called Ann and Molly back then,” White said. “But now we have our own name and matching different colored shirts.”
Campbell and White said some of their favorite songs are for the elderly Have fun, show me the way home and The Tennessee Waltz.
Campbell often plays the guitar and violin while White plays the piano and banjo. Both play the ukulele and tap dance.
“Oh my god, the joy and pleasure of seeing that smile and wanting to get up and dance,” Campbell said.
Navigating COVID-19 restrictions
In March 2020, the Chief Public Health Office announced restrictions on long-term care facilities and nursing homes on PEI in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Under these guidelines, entertainers were no longer allowed to perform in the care facilities.
Campbell and White said it’s a really tough time for residents because they’re also isolating from family members.
So the sisters took their performances outside. Residents could gather indoors and watch them perform through the windows of various retirement homes.
“It was emotional that they were so isolated,” White said. “So having something to lift her spirits for an hour was really, really heartwarming. But it was emotional because we knew these residents really well, so it was hard not to interact.”
White and Campbell are allowed to entertain inside the homes again, but are also required to wear masks while singing and physically distance themselves from residents.
“The really difficult thing about the masks is they don’t see our smiles,” White said. “You can hear it in our voices, you can see it in our eyes, but that personal side [seeing our] I really miss faces.”
The sisters said each home they chat in has been very accommodating in navigating restrictions.
They said some homes are dividing residents into cohorts so they can perform in front of a smaller group of people, while other homes are gathering their residents in large common areas like dining rooms to allow for physical distancing.
“A Special Feeling”
White said she laughs when she tells people they have guests in retirement homes because she and Campbell are seniors themselves, although the residents don’t see them that way.
And the sisters agree that they will be entertained until they physically can’t anymore.
“It’s a special feeling, it’s hard to describe,” said White.
“I’m happy to give and my day will come,” Campbell said. “I hope I will have the same pleasure.”
The sisters said they usually take time off for vacations in the summer, but not this year.
Both Campbell and White said they were happy to finally be able to entertain residents face-to-face – albeit masked – after two years of uncertainty.
“It’s just the love of seniors and the love of making an hour of fun,” White said. .
“We’re having as much fun as they are,” Campbell said.