“I only play on the days I eat,” Gail Childs said about her ukulele. “I guess that’s every day.”

Each week, an enthusiastic group of Pensacola, Florida, seniors pick up their ukuleles for a jam session at their Azalea Trace retirement community.

“It’s such a therapy. The music is a therapy for our souls,” resident and club founder Patsy Morgan said. “Every time we gather together, you can tell the difference in our attitudes upon leaving here.”

With four strings, the ukulele is a perfect musical instrument for seniors, especially since it is smaller than a guitar, light-weight and portable.

“For me, it’s great exercise for my fingers because I have arthritis and it keeps my joints mobile,” resident Bob Willice said. “I really enjoy playing this little instrument.”

What began as a social club to learn a new musical instrument became a weekly event that helped members discover other health benefits. Playing together lifts their spirits, keeps their hands active and their minds sharp.

 “As senior citizens, it’s a little more difficult to strum, move your fingers, and keep your eye on the music. To make our nervous system to coordinate with our brain. That’s a big plus,” said resident Nancy Harders.

The group began taking lessons with an instructor at Blue Angels Music every Saturday morning. Twenty-one residents signed up for classes.

“We truly enjoy it,” Patsy said. “When you first start out, it takes a lot of practice but that practice is so worth the time you put into it.”

For many members, the ukulele renewed fond memories of childhood.

“My first experience with the Ukulele was from my father. It’s just neat that I’m doing something he did and enjoyed,” resident Sally Crenshaw reminisced.

“Having our classes together gave us the opportunity to know each other better,” Patsy said.

Patsy is proud of the music club and all they’ve learned so far.

“I think that we’re going to start something that will continue on,” she said. “We’ll have a lot of jam sessions.”