“Step, step, kick!”
That is just one of the many moves residents at Kenny’s Pond Retirement Residence on Macdonald Drive in St. John’s have been learning during their Movement in Music classes.
The difference with this particular group that gathers in the sixth-floor common room is that they are preparing a number for a talent show slated for May 30 at the retirement residence.
“This group is just doing one number in the show. We started working on it about two months ago and we are looking forward to our performance,’’ said Claire Miller of Newfound Movement dance studio.
“But more importantly, these movements are all part of ensuring the residents stay active and healthy. What I am teaching is based on the ‘Frontiers in Human Neuroscience’ model, an anti-aging activity for the brain.’’
Miller has been doing dance classes at Kenny’s Pond for more than three years. The different styles include Latin, jazz, cha cha cha and more.
The program uses dance instead of endurance training as a means of addressing the areas of the brain that show a decline in aging, and also gives the participants a wider range of motion and enhanced health benefits.
Residents gather twice a week for the classes.
"...these movements are all part of ensuring the residents stay active and healthy." — Claire Miller
If you look around the room, the joy on the faces of the residents is obvious. You can even hear some participants singing.
One of those voices belongs to St. John’s-born participant Mary Thompson. She was a basketball player in her youth at the Mercy Convent — it is rumoured she was quite good at it. She was also a tennis player.
“I knew I had to do something, so that is why I am here,” Thompson said.
“Of all the things we are learning, I like doing the kicks.”
Another participant who was well-versed in the routine completed her steps and kicks right next to Thompson.
“The classes are fun, and it is nice to come here and see your friends on a regular basis,” said Mary Fahey of St. John’s.
“It is nice to get together. I used to get out to the YMCA when I was younger to exercise. I’d still like to do that, but obviously I can’t anymore,’’ she added, noting she was an avid swimmer in her youth and bowled at the Holiday Lanes on Elizabeth Avenue.
This talent show is open for staff, residents and family members to participate. The night will be a full gala, starting with a candlelight supper and be capped off by about 10 performances in the nearly 90-minute show.
“One of our main activities is an exercise class we facilitate every Tuesday,” recreation co-ordinator Erika Farrell said.
“It is called Movement to Music, taught by Claire Miller. This is a dance class that has been going on here for six-plus years.”
This class will perform a dance at the talent show and will include 10 residents, all of whom are older than 85.
These classes have made the participants healthier.
“I notice a big difference in all of them. I was a PCA on the third floor and once I started working in recreation, I saw how this program helped the residents,” recreation co-ordinator Amanda Greene said.
"...once I started working in recreation, I saw how this program helped the residents." — Amanda Greene
“This gentleman (pointing to a man in the room) was confined to a wheelchair when he started this, now he gets around just fine without it. This is a common improvement for many of the participants.’’
Miller said there was a conversation a few months ago about what they were doing and it was decided the group would put a number together for the talent show.
She said studies show music is a great way to fend off dementia, and the dance and activities help to improve balance, co-ordination and strength, as the residents are able to recall the routines … and the more they participate, the more speed that is added to those movements.
Miller said the program is good for them, as the music stimulates the brain, which in turn slows cognitive decline. It is also proven to be good for the participants’ heart, lungs, muscles, joints and overall happiness, as they feel better about themselves through a host of new accomplishments.