The most common misconception about getting older is that when you reach a certain age, it’s better to slow down.
But extensive research has shown that enjoying an active lifestyle is not strictly reserved for the young. The young at heart can benefit as well.
Ron Evans, a retired business manager for Lockheed-Martin, said staying active is how he stays sharp and he and his wife Mary Ellen have found one activity in particular the most beneficial. The couple began taking ballroom dancing lessons 10 years ago as a means of staying fit physically and the couple, who are now in their 70s, say not only is fun it keeps the brain active.
“Ballroom dancing involves precise physical activity, listening to the music, remembering dance steps and taking your partner into account, which is mentally testing,” Evans said. According to research from AARP, ballroom dancing seems to be one of the few physical activities that can delay the onset of dementia and actually rewires the cerebral cortex.
Unlike the effects of purely physical activity, “hard thinking” will not wear out the brain and actually helps build “brain muscles,” Evans said.
The key to getting more seniors interested in ballroom dancing is to remove the stigma that ballroom dancing must be formal and structured.
“As long as you can walk, you can dance,” said Faye Paxton, who helps the Evanses organize a monthly ballroom dance social at the Beavers Drive Senior Center.
The monthly dance is held on the first Friday of each month from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
There is no cost to attend and seniors 50 and up are especially encouraged to attend.
For the first 30 minutes, the couple teaches a ballroom dance. For the next two hours couples are encouraged to put into motion their new moves or showing off old ones to great music, Evans said.
Each month the dance hosts a different theme and for the February dance, which will be held Feb. 7, there will be a Valentine motif.
The hope with each dance is to draw a crowd that enjoys not just ballroom dancing, but dancing in general Evans said.
No partner is necessary and Mrs. Evans said the classes are not meant to be intimidating.
“I promise you we do no lifts,” Ms. Evans said with a laugh. “Even if we knew how, knowing and doing are two different things at 70. Who would want to at our age? We’re here to have fun.”