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Tea and Tango brings seniors together to have fun and get exercise

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Recently, local dancers, dance instructors, and recreational specialists attended a daylong workshop called “Dance for Health: Seniors” to learn how to create or adapt dance classes for people ages 65 and up.

Dance Nova Scotia presented “Dance for Health: Seniors” bringing in chiropractor Dr. Jans Ellefsen, Gerard Butler of Barefoot Facilitation, and choreographer Randy Glynn. Participants learned about physical challenges many older adults may face such as osteoarthritis in the knees and herniated discs in the spine.

They explored visual, auditory, and kinetic learning styles with Gerard Butler and observed Randy Glynn teach a live dance class to senior volunteers. With the senior population on the rise in Atlantic Canada, more people are looking to offer and participate in dance classes that suit older adults.

Martina Sommer is co-founder of Tea and Tango, a social Argentine tango program. She attended the workshop to learn how to better instruct her senior students. For many seniors, dance classes can bolster social, physical, and mental well being. “Argentine tango is an ideal dance to learn at 65+ because it’s based on walking,” Sommer says.

She adds that it is also more lenient than international tango or other ballroom dances that require rigid posture and precise steps. Sommer says that Argentine tango has been shown to benefit people with neurological conditions. One of her students has Parkinson’s disease.

At Tea and Tango, the 25-minute break allows for conversation and connection. “Someone with Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis can have a support group that is not connected to illness or a sterile environment,” says Sommer.

Bridging generations, the class is also a break from the isolation many seniors experience in daily life. For some volunteers in their twenties, it is their only interaction with someone in their sixties. “The beauty is that we connect across ages and abilities, languages and life experiences,” Sommer says.

Though she values the intergenerational aspect of Argentine tango, she says there is benefit in offering classes that cater specifically to seniors, especially for styles that have a quicker pace and more footwork. “I think it’s important [for instructors] to be aware of learning speed, medical conditions, heart rate, and range of motion,” Sommer explains.

Tea and Tango is a free, volunteer-run program. The beginner session continues through May 28. www.teaandtango.com

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