Never mind the language, thanks to visiting guitarist Chris Bligh music unites all at this Auckland rest home.
Every Wednesday afternoon at around 2.15, Janusz Szubski sings. You have to be standing close to hear him, but it doesn't make much difference: he's not singing for you.
Who knows who he's singing for? Himself perhaps, or for something or someone half-forgotten or too keenly remembered.
Janusz isn't saying. A resident of the Royal Heights Rest Home in Massey, he can't manage much in any language other than his native Polish, even though he came to New Zealand in 1988. His intellectual disability has kept him virtually monolingual for all of his 79 years.
But music is a language he understands, and every Wednesday he sings.
It's the same song each time: Que Sera Sera, the hit by Doris Day (or Connie Francis, depending on your era) and it's part of the repertoire of singer and guitarist Christopher Bligh.
It's Bligh's gig, but the way it looked to me, Janusz decided when Janusz was going to sing. About three-quarters of the way through the set last week, he rose from his chair in the crowded lounge and shuffled, painfully slowly, towards the entertainer. The moment was expected, welcomed, both by Bligh and his fellow residents, and the singer slipped smoothly into Janusz's theme tune.
"Get a tissue for Janusz," somebody called as he neared the end of the song, but the remark wasn't unkind. Everyone knew that by the final refrain, tears would be pouring down his cheeks.
Janusz's obbligato was a poignant interlude in an hour otherwise notable for its good humour and high spirits. As its name suggests, Royal Heights Rest Home perches on a hilltop behind the shopping centre. The suburbs roll out like a carpet to the east and there are expansive views of the Waitakeres.
The rest home's resident population of 45 is supplemented by some who show up for day care.
Royal Heights is a regular stop on a circuit for Bligh, who tells me he has done 17,000 performances over 24 years. The 48-year-old spends at least a couple of hours on the road each day, six days a week, taking his music to rest homes, private hospitals and retirement villages. His repertoire 300 songs in his head and as many again in songbooks contains something for every occasion.
He was keenly awaited when he showed up, parking his car beside a sign that says "No Parking at All Times" and unloading his small rig he can carry speaker box, guitar (a 12-string Takamine) and a bag of leads in one go.
Dressed in black flares, studded belt, patent leather shoes and with his hair fashionably frosted, he looked the Rhinestone-Cowboy part as he strode in to a welcoming chorus of "woo-hoo".
Over the next hour, kitted out with a head-worn microphone, he belted out almost two dozen numbers from various eras: A White Sport Coat (and a Pink Carnation); Baby Face; The Old Grey Mare.
Dean Martin got a run, as did rock and roll.
At judiciously chosen intervals, he called for participation: actions, singalong, a spot of dancing. His lame Irish jokes brought the house down, though that might have had something to do with the drinks trolley being pushed around the room.
Around the fringes, some residents dozed by their walkers, dreaming of their salad days; but in the 60-strong audience, there were plenty of tapping slippered feet and the applause was warm.
The whooping was led by Rita Hill, a cheerful Glaswegian, who boogied in her chair for most of the hour and was quick to take up an invitation to dance for the benefit of the Herald photographer.
"That's my best pal over there," she told me after the gig. "I love him coming, especially when he plays the rock and roll. You name it, baby. My Dad was a good singer and a dancer, oh my and Christopher's good. He's really good."
Manager Pam Miller says people have the wrong idea about rest homes - she reckons they get a raw deal from the press by and large. She has five groups on her roster and they have dress-up theme nights, such as country and western; all are part of a programme of entertainment that activities co-ordinator Murray Jeffrey puts together.
"It's very popular," she says. "Just because you're older doesn't mean you change your outlook on life.
"We can do so much more for the elderly than we do. You go to some rest homes and they're all sitting round in a square looking at each other."