McClatchy-Tribune News Service
Elsie Colley dances with seniors learning line dancing on Jan. 11 in a dance class offered at an Akron, Ohio, community center. The program provides much-needed cardiovascular exercise for seniors who otherwise might not participate.
AKRON, Ohio — They move oh-so-elegantly, swiveling their hips and rolling their shoulders to the soulful music. Some wear sneakers, others don high heels. They are a fun lot and don’t shy away from much, unless it’s revealing their ages. Most only grimace when asked how old they are, but those who qualify readily admit to being great-grandmoms.
With the sultry moves they’ve mastered on the dance floor, they’re sexy senior citizens.
Some line dance just for fun; others do it to keep their hearts beating.
Watching Carolyn Bell move across the floor, it’s hard to imagine that doctors once wanted to amputate her legs. There’s no shuffling in her step and she lifts her petite feet off the floor. And though she’s in pain, she doesn’t let on, wearing a grin as she keeps up with the beat.
“The arteries in my legs, from my feet to my hips, are clogged. They’ve put stents in, twice. They got some blood flow, but very little,” Bell said. “Doctors said to me, ‘The only thing we can do to get rid of the pain is to amputate.’”
“That’s completely out of the question,” she told them. After all, she had already survived three heart attacks and cancer. Instead, she reasoned that beyond her aerobics workouts, dancing might help with circulation.
So back in November, Bell decided to take up line dancing at the Lawton Community Center in Akron, Ohio. The free classes, offered by Universal Nursing Services Inc., meet each Wednesday morning.
Just to be sure, she explained, she asked God whether it was a good idea for her to be doing such a thing.
“He answered ... ‘Dance for me.’”
During the weekly sessions, assistant instructor Hilda Craig illustrates a dance before the others give it a try. She uses her shoulders to make sultry moves.
About a decade ago the 62-year-old started to dance for her health. Her sister had a leg amputated because of complications from diabetes, so Craig began dancing more often to avoid similar health issues.
“I can’t say enough about this program,” she said after a lesson at the center. “I’m so glad that these women are coming in here rather than sitting at home ... dying.”
Gloria Rookard is the president and chief executive of Universal Nursing Services, a business she began some 30 years ago. She said her company goes into neighborhoods that are underserved. And the dance lessons are one way to give back to a community.