During this National Line Dance week, Wellness Instructor Sarah Foster shares how one request for a class turned into a lifetime skill for a group of residents at Presbyterian Homes of Bloomington.
By guest writer Sarah Foster, Wellness Instructor
As a Wellness Instructor at Presbyterian Homes of Bloomington I work with residents who are well into their 80s and 90s, often focusing on seated exercise. I lead classes in aqua aerobics, chair yoga, and movement to music, to name a few. Recently, residents requested even more challenging classes. I was encouraged to check out the line dancing group at Creekside Senior Community Center by a few eager residents with a hankering to dance. I met the Creekside line dance instructor who took me under her wing and taught me four standard line dances. With my new repertoire, I implemented a line dance group at Presbyterian Homes.
Balance, coordination and memory
The line dance class became very popular as word about the group spread throughout the community. I started by teaching the dances from a seated position and the class soon progressed to a standing position with chairs for additional stability. The dancers will tell you, that although balancing was difficult, remembering the dance moves posed the greater challenge.
The classes helped us improve balance, coordination, memory and continually brought us together as we laughed at our mistakes. As a new line dancer, I definitely made some mistakes while teaching. Sometimes dancers would bump into each other or turn the wrong direction causing lots of giggles.
From the classroom to the stage
I was impressed at the dancer’s strength and rhythm after just four months of practicing! To share the progress we made and to help my class feel a greater sense of community, I suggested that we take our dancing to the stage! The class was hesitant when I proposed this idea, but they took on the challenge and within two months showcased nine dances with challenging step work for a full audience. “The Presbyterian Dancers,” as they nicknamed themselves, were joined with the large group from Creekside Community Center as well as a group from my seated movement to music class. The seated dancers performed three songs, two of which I choreographed. While seated, these residents used expressive arm gestures, modified foot work, and facial expressions to showcase different themes.
The dancers performed routines with a mix of age and ability. Some had a lifetime of dance experience and others learned the steps in less than a month. At the end of the show, the crowd went wild as the dancers proved age is not a factor when it comes to dance.
Bringing people together
As a current occupational therapy student, my main goal is to help seniors maintain or modify activities that they find valuable. I feel like I accomplished this goal during my time at Presbyterian Homes and am so grateful that I had such an eager group to work with. Dance brings people together, breaking down cultural, physical, and age barriers as well as nourishing social wellbeing. I am honored that I was a part of this experience and excited to see where the resident’s enthusiasm and skill leads them as they continue this new and fulfilling activity.