Ninety-seven year old, Naomi Friedman is a member of a band that has been playing gigs around Houston since 2011. That band, formed at Brookdale Galleria, is known as the “Kazoo Ensemble” and has 12 members, mostly consisting of former physicians, astrophysicists and mathematicians. They are all 64-97 years young. Their instrument of choice is…the kazoo.
While it’s not your typical band and they may not be in high demand, they have performed at hospitals, schools, day cares, parks, senior centers, churches, synagogues and more. “We started the kazoo band for the fun of it, for something to do,” said Naomi.
The ensemble has drawn quite a bit of attention from those outside of the senior living community. In fact, Naomi was recently featured in a short film, “Ode to Joy” produced by her grandson, Michael Koshkin. Koshkin is a New York-based cinematographer and writer. This film won second place in the Hammer to Nail Short Film Contest and screened at several film festivals in 2018.
While the film celebrates the ensemble’s unique musical talents and escapades, it also highlights an important and overlooked part of the aging process: the importance of social interaction for seniors.
“You’ve lived a productive life and all of a sudden you discover you have nothing you have to do,” remarked Naomi.
“It’s a terrible feeling getting up every day knowing you don’t have to do a darn thing. That’s good when you’re on vacation, and you want some time off, but when you don’t have to do anything or nothing all your life, that becomes a problem.”
Research shows that friendships and a strong social circle have a dramatic impact on the quality of life of seniors. Alarmingly, the Health Resources and Services Administration found that loneliness and social isolation can be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. The study also found that forty-three percent of seniors feel lonely on a regular basis and there is a 45 percent increased risk of mortality in seniors who feel lonely.
Michael agrees, saying “It was very apparent that the need to socialize and feel a part of something was what brought the band together. It gave them something to look forward to and be excited about. Staying active and engaged with others clearly gives meaning to this community.”
The band has set a lofty goal! When they signed up for this film, it began as an audition tape for the Ellen show; to date, they are still waiting on that invite (Ellen, can you hear the kazoo buzz?).