Senior Marina Shubin couldn’t stay for last week’s dance class but she popped in to assure her friends she would be back the following week.
But before dashing off for an appointment, she explained how much she and the other participants love the program.
“It is nice, useful, beautiful. Every movement is making us younger,” she said last Thursday in an activity room on the ground floor of a seniors’ building on Bathurst Street north of Lawrence Avenue.
“What we don’t use, we lose. If we don’t use movement, we will lose everything. If we don’t use the mind, we lose the mind. Everything here is useful and nice. It is a Canadian present for older people in our house. In our house, it is like a miracle and we value this.”
Supported by the Ontario government’s Healthy Communities fund, the program is a joint project between York University’s dance department and community agencies such as Downsview Services for Seniors, through which Shubin and the rest of her class participate.
Students from York’s dance and nursing departments teach the classes.
Dance classes provide particular benefits for seniors, said April Nakaima, a project coordinator for the program and also a course leader for York’s dance department.
“It is to provide physical activity in the form of dance, which has the benefits of music and the esthetic elements of dance beyond the physical benefits. There are also the social benefits of doing a group activity,” she said.
“Most of them come for the fun and health reasons. Some of them are already active, they already do exercise. But a lot of them say since dancing, they feel happier.”
Dancing also reduces stress, depression and anxiety and improves sleep, Nakaima said.
Because dance classes in the community are often geared to younger adults, it’s difficult for “able-bodied and quick-witted” seniors to find programs for them, Pereira said.
Not only do the classes provide participants with physical benefits but moving to music is social and fun, said Anna Pereira, program coordinator with Downsview Services for Seniors’ Healthier Living Centre.
At last week’s class, teacher Kayla Patullo, a York U. dance major who is graduating this year, smiled as she led the seniors through a number of dances including the Macarena.
Hoping to open her own dance studio, Patullo likes the energy seniors bring to the class.
“Me, as a dance major, I’m trying to lean away from the competitive side of dance and get back to the community,” she said.
“It’s the joy of movement for them (rather than focusing on performing perfect dance moves). They give me so much, I feel I should give them so much. It’s their love of movement, they just love it.”
Seniors said they enjoy attending the classes.
For example, Brina Segal praised the physical and social benefits.
“I need to exercise and meet all these lovely people,” she said.
“It helps us to keep healthy and strong and vibrant and happy.”
Florida Talaugon, who attended her first class last week, agreed.
“Because I have fun. I come alive. I want music. I love music, Too bad I’m not a good dancer,” she laughed.