Balloon Man visits a nursing home.


A balloon artist visits a nursing home, shapes crazy hats and bracelets and geegaws out of balloons, and makes a lot of elderly people very happy for a while. That's it. No catch, no irony. Video link. (thanks, nirvan)

Update: From the comments thread, nirvan adds:

The balloon artist is Addi Somekh. All of Addi's YouTube videos are pretty amazing. The music is by The Evangenitals.

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  1. Addi is the most earnest person I’ve ever met who makes their living making balloon art. In fact you could scratch those last 7 words of that sentence.

  2. his namw is addi somekh and his website is balloonhat.com. he’s traveled the world with his balloons and has incredible photographs of people in some remote places (like tribes people in mongloia on horseback) wearing some pretty outlandish hats. there’s even a documentary about him and his work called, you guessed it, “balloonhat.” he’s a pretty great guy.

  3. If I was my girlfriend or my sister I would be crying right now. And I mean that in the best possible way.

  4. addi is a pretty cool guy. the photographs on his website are incredible – he traveled the world with a great photographer and has some pretty wild pictures of people in remote places wearing some pretty outlandish hats (the tribes people on horseback in mongolia is a favorite).

  5. nice video…but geeze, getting old seems kind of sucky. no offense to the old folks there–just an observation.

  6. I met this guy a few years back when he was did a presentation about his balloonhat calendar. Talented, down to earth, and awful nice.

  7. That was so beautiful! Tears sure did run down my eyes.
    Hope you guys post more things like this to be reminded of the simplicity of our lives and how lucky we all are.

  8. I didn’t really find the video touching, but that may be because I don’t want to be treated like a small child when I am 80.

  9. thats a pretty sweet video, thanks ms. jardin.

    i didn’t find it patronizing, maybe because of seeing similar kinds of visits to the place where my dad spent most of his last couple years. he and his friends there genuinely enjoyed them –the singers, comics, minor local celebrities who’d drop by– and also the occasional beer on ‘pub night’ and old movie marathons.

    generally, as a culture, i think we’ve become so jaded, so inundated with ‘irony,’ so self-absorbed that seeing such unashamed kindness, tenderness, and such simple pleasures seems to make us squirm.

    not me: i cried. (a little.) mostly because it reminded me of my dad and mom, and made me forget about myself, if only for a minute and a half.

  10. okay, maybe i’m just too cynical a person, because you all seem to have been touched by it but this video made me sad in a different way. i mean, i really don’t think any of them were that happy except for the woman in the last shot and the nurses. i imagine without the background music it would just be images of a man making balloon animals and people unable to be affected by it.

  11. Where are these people’s children?

    I’d just as soon saw my own leg off as abandon my parents to be amused by some balloon guy.

  12. Oh yeah, that made me a bit weepy. I was a bit ashamed at first, as I’m in the midst of a depressive spell and crying at the drop of a hat (uh, yay for bipolar? and SAD?). It was really nice to see that it made other people tear up too.

  13. I went to a local openmic night at Mr. T’s Bowl in LA a while back and lucked into seeing Addi perform with his duo Unpoppable. Addi played a balloon and rubberband connected to an amp via a contact mic. One of the coolest things I have ever seen.

    video here http://www.unpopable.com/picsvid.html

  14. I hope I never get to live in a nursing home.. I do get to see quite old people who don’t. @Stony Brook University we have prof. Barcus who seems to be about as old as these people (got his PhD in ’55), and he’s still active in teaching classes. I hope to be like that in my late years.

  15. I don’t know. I wouldn’t want some stranger making me look like an idiot, so I can only assume the octogenarian set would feel the same. Didn’t fine it touching at all.

    As for my part, I make OTR (Old Time Radio) recordings for old people. Jack Benny, George and Gracie, and Our Miss Brooks are favorites. I occasionally rip DVDs of old TV programming.

    If you want to do something nice for old people, this brings them a lot of pleasure. For me, it all started with one CD for an elderly neighbor. She passed it on to a friend, and so on, and so on. I now do MP3 CDs which work with most DVD players. Little effort, great reward.

    Here’s a great source for those who subscribe to usenet:

    alt.binaries.sounds.radio.oldtime.highspeed

    There are a lot of recordings on the www as well, but are generally of lower quality.

    Now go visit your grandparents.

  16. Years ago I had an acquaintance that I thought was the biggest d-bag I had ever met: he was a wealthy yuppie, obsessed with money and status symbols. One day he mentioned that he was going to the nursing home to play the piano (he was also a very talented musician). He said that one time he played a song there while visiting his father and several residents came to listen and were transfixed. From then on, he went there every Saturday to play.

  17. i was so upset after reading the article before this (TSA vs. Babies)that i was starting to think that maybe i wouldn’t come back to boing boing for a few days… but this really cheered me up.

  18. i found this lovely – i hope somebody makes me a balloon hat when i am old – hell i wish somebody would make me a balloon hat right now – i would wear it with pride, i would wear it all day – i am going out to fancyscmancy restaurant tonite and i would wear it there!

    i hope even when i am old i am never too old to laugh and to laugh at the ridiculousness of myself. i don’t find this sad at all – who knows what makes a person happy?

    a balloon hat would, i think, always make me happy.

  19. #10 I would say being old sucks, but getting old rocks.

    Those balloon hats were great. Especially considering those people are in a building without any bright colors. I just spent a day working in a convention hall with only subtle variations of gray. I thought I might die. These poor people have to live in a hole like that.

    By the way, It’s not so tear-jerky if you turn the volume off.

  20. I started crying when he made the one lady a balloon wrist corsage. Don’t know quite what it was about that. Probably because even though she’s in a nursing home, wearing a hospital gown, he placed the corsage on her wrist like a boy greeting his date for the senior prom, and she looks like a girl, happy and flustered at the gesture.

    God, I’m such a loser. *goes to get tissues*

  21. Only my personal opinion: sad. Absurd and not in a good way. Why do people go crying mad over these sorts of things: ‘Patch Adams’, movies about children dying of Cancer and their last wishes peppered with the cliche “wisdom of a child’ :/

    I find it bizarre and it makes the true tragedy– the sick, dying, & elderly people– look like fools for our entertainment and to fill out hearts with a little bit’O anecdotal hope. Balloon hats.

    But I hear “It is not about the balloon hats, it’s about the joy the people feel from the hats.” OK. True joy would be felt if their Alzheimer’s was cured and hospices\nursing homes actually showed proper care for their clients, the patients, instead of impatience and the oft-recored abuse. Balloon hats to the rescue LOL.

    ** Note to self: if you ever find yourself in the hospital, MattyD, and the Balloon Man appears ask for the nurse to call security and another shot of morphine.

  22. Glad I’m not the only one who got a little mushy over that. The lady with the corsage also got to me most, probably because she kinda looks like an older version of my mother.

    The whole thing was good, though. Whether they showed it outwardly or not, balloon hats and such are always fun. I’m sure they all enjoyed it.

  23. This caused such a lump to well up in my throat I thought I would choke.

    My mom has been in the nursing home for the past 6 years due to advanced Alzheimers disease. While its bad, it is said the disease affects the family more than the victim as the victim isn’t really aware of whats going on anyhow. What I HAVE noticed are the rest of the residents. Wonderful intelligent people who are stuck in a miserable day-to-day existence. While the nursing homes for more affluent people have plenty of organized activities, ones like my mom are in, don’t, due to the lack of money and/or volunteers and such. people have no idea how much even simple things like this break up what is normally a dismal boring day for these folks. I take off my (balloon) hat to anyone who takes an hour out of their time to volunteer to do something that can brighten the lives of a few who deserve more than being parked in front of a community TV for hours on end.

  24. The nursing homes of the future (our nursing homes) will have balloon-making robots. That will be the one and only advance in nursing-home technology.

  25. I love this video.

    The Evangenitals (we’re the band playing the song in this video) recently went on a tour and played at a Veteran’s Nursing Home in Daytona Beach, FL. It was such an incredible experience… we passed out various instruments to the residents and everyone played along and participated. One of the old gents pulled me aside afterward and thanked us for the entertainment, saying that they get a lot of “lemons” in there, and that we were the best thing to come through town in a while. After our visit, they had a karaoke guy come in and they all sang old-school hits. It was awesome. I’m sure they would have loved Addi, too.

    It’s so awesome to have our music set to this beautiful scene. Thanks Addi!

    You can actually check out photos of our Nursing Home visit here: http://flickr.com/photos/the1secondfilm/sets/72157602988613092/

  26. Nursing homes are where you find people in their purest form, stripped of their youth, their strength, their good looks, and most of the time, their wealth. You’ll see people there you won’t find out and about in society. Most of them know it will be the last place they will live.

    Many nursing homes today have regularly scheduled entertainment and social activities, but for those that don’t, thankfully people like this guy exist to bring hope and vitality to these people. I had the opportunity to volunteer at a nursing home for about a year before I moved five months ago. I recommend volunteering on a regular basis if you can.

  27. As a youth, a young adult, an adult, and as a middle ager … I have been entertained and amused by various artists of less ore more skill. Whether at school, church (yikes, I know!), clubs, work, parties, whatever.

    When I am in a state of decline that requires a nursing home or other somesuch care facility, I hope to have access to the same campy, crappy entertainment I have either enjoyed or suffered through for my entire life.

    I loved the bit at the end. it’s a parade of floats for the facility bound! One day, when I am there, I hope some gentleman like this shall offer me the silliest, most fantastic hat imaginable for my parade roll.

    #26, I friended you, and would love to have one of your CDs for my mother, who is mid 80’s. Even if you don’t like the notion of strangers making you look silly. (Wondering how anyone in the US manages to avoid such fate?)

  28. He’s making sainted hats! What an amazing guy to take time just to make people feel good.
    I love The Evangenitals song, the name of the band, and The UnicRon :)

  29. I killed Nazis with my bare hands, I suffered through the depression as a kid…Now you think putting balloons on my fucking head’s gonna make you feel good and all better on my way to death…Wanna trade places balloon man?

  30. That was a great video! I have a friend who is only 42 in a nursing home (lost a leg from diabetes) and it is always so sad in there. Nice to see folks trying to put some smiles on some faces.

  31. I did weekly voluntary work at several nursing homes around southern Alberta for about two years and it was one of the best experiences of my life. During those experiences, I found the following to be true:

    1. Nursing homes are generally hellish places: foreign and sterile, with little resemblance to home and often great disconnect with family and your former life.

    2. Not all residents have ungrateful children, but some do, and it is truly heartbreaking.

    3. Most of the staff at these homes realize what a terrible thing it is to be locked in a brick and mortar box for the rest of your life, which is why they schedule diversions that may seem silly– and here’s an important point that the cynics may have missed: it’s not necessarily the entertainment itself that matters, but the attention and communication with another human being who isn’t there to change your diaper or medicate you (go to a nursing home and notice how many times total strangers will hold your hand or arm or pat your shoulder…they just want sincere human interaction).

    4. In most cases, if a resident doesn’t want to participate in such ‘demeaning’ entertainment, they don’t have to. Plenty of residents choose to be escorted back to their rooms when they don’t care for the entertainment.

    When we went and volunteered, I would usually sit at the piano in the common room and play old-timey music while the folks sang or hummed a long. 95% percent of them absolutely loved it, and I loved sharing that music with them.

    Getting old is savagely distressing, and it’s equally distressing how many of us in the our western culture treat the elderly, which makes the efforts of Addi and others all the more important.

    I think I’m going to start volunteering again, what an inspiration.

  32. anyone build a user interface so people can surf even though their hands and eyes don’t work so great and their attention wanders a bit? With a REALLY large print dsplay? And a browser designed to be intuitive for people raised on printed books? As cheap as a hundred dollar laptop?

  33. Thanks for the links, Yank!

    The non-profit I work for has several adult day care centers; and entertainment, socializing, plus arts/crafts are all part of what keeps clients coming back.

  34. I have been a volunteer working with developmentally and/or physically disabled children for 19 years. It has been my experience that a lot of the people that have very strong opinions on the treatment and care of people with special needs have never had the serious and intimate experiences that occur with hands on interaction.

    All people crave human interaction, and many of the most needy do not receive enough of it. I saw no one losing any dignity in that video. I saw people communing and enjoying a visit from a man with a unique and wonderful talent.

    I would have loved a balloon hat when I was eight. I believe I will love one when I am eighty, and I know I would love one now.

  35. It’s sad. I used to play the piano in nursing homes, and it was just sad to see all those old folks – some of them with perfectly working minds – abandoned and left to rot. They were happy to see me, not because I was such a good pianist, but because I was young and because it broke up the monotony of their day. In such a place, anything, no matter how silly, is better than just sitting there staring at the wall. I’m sure balloon art works similarly; while I’m not sure I’d want a balloon hat when I’m 80, I think I’d prefer it to sitting in a puddle of my own urine staring at the wall.

    After playing at that nursing home a couple of times, I made a solemn vow to my parents that they would never see the inside of a nursing home. I meant it then, and I still mean it.

  36. Thank you, Bren.

    I would like to be an OTR evangelist for the elderly and perhaps post my collection in disk images for easy burning for people who work with the elderly. All it would take is a CD player or DVD player that reads MP3 hooked into a audio system. However, I know little of the legal problems I might encounter.

    If anyone has a solid background in intellectual property/copyright law, I would appreciate knowing what I can and cannot do. It seems podcasters distribute with impunity, but there is a company (Radio Spirits) who has acquired rights to many old-time radio broadcasts, and they have sued people.

  37. While I don’t want my parents to be in a nursing home either, I don’t think the balloon guy was trying to make any of these old folks look like an idiot. He was just indulging their inner silly. Some people take themselves way too seriously. The lady who got the balloon corsage obviously appreciated the gesture, and that’s all that matters.

  38. #57:

    No hard and fast definition for OTR. That sort of recording would certainly show up among the newsgroups.

    I know very little of in the history of broadcast radio is actually public domain.

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