By SARAH SEPANEK
Inside the Howland SCOPE center, Willie Nelson sings away as the participants of the weekly line dancing class follow the steps. Instructor Theo Bell gives them the instructions to get them started, and then the dancers take it away. Front to back, side to side, they go through several songs without stopping. Then, the "Boot Scootin' Boogie" begins to play as the dancers begin a new routine.
Participants in the Howland SCOPE line dancing class follow instructor Theo Bell’s lead while dancing at the Howland SCOPE center Dec. 19.
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Dancing of all kinds can be a great activity for seniors. The physical activity is a benefit to mobility in bones and joints, and the socializing can help keep the mind sharp. Bell agreed, saying that "A lot of them, it keeps their minds sharp."
Bell, who has been leading classes at area senior centers for more than 10 years, says that members of his classes range from their late 50s to early 80s "Anyone can come," he said.
Area senior centers offer a variety of different dance classes. Line dancing, salsa, tap and square dancing are all on the menu. Chair dancing is offered for seniors with physical limitations. According to the AARP, dancing is an excellent activity for seniors because of the ability to customize and control the movements. A dancer can alter their routine to be more involved as they become skilled, or to be less active if they become physically limited. So, whatever one's needs are, chances are there's a dance group for them.
According to the AARP, seniors who participate in dance classes fare better on cognitive tests, and show better balance and coordination. The physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, stimulating the mind. Participating in dance classes also builds confidence and allows seniors to interact with one another and make friends.
As far as physical health goes, a 150-pound adult can burn 150 calories during 30 minutes of social dancing. Given that the average SCOPE dance class is up to 90 minutes or more, that means a lot of benefit for the body. The American Heart Association reports that in seniors suffering from chronic heart failure, participating in waltzing classes increased their oxygen consumption, mobility and emotional well-being. Dancing can also ward off high blood pressure and diseases like diabetes and osteoporosis. Staying healthy is a great way to prolong life and improve its quality.
In the Howland SCOPE center, children run in between the dancing group, playing with toys as the adults continue their dance steps. The kids then try and imitate the steps, introducing another generation to the fun of dancing. Just another benefit of the SCOPE dance program.