Moving to the beat
BY KAREN MARTIN
Special Sections editor
The infectious beat of the Macarena boomed from the speakers as the dancers lined up.
Rachel Carlino, an instructor with Peoples Health, briefly demonstrated the moves to the early 90’s Spanish dance tune. Arms out. Palms up. Palms down. Arms crossed. Hands behind head. Hands on opposite hips. Hands on same hips. Roll hips and dip. Jump and turn.
“It’s a little bit complicated,” Carlino, 24, says as she again walks her students, most of whom have 40 years or so on their teacher, through the steps.
Soon everyone is moving – some more enthusiastically than others – to the music.
For about 45 minutes, Carlino has the seniors hopping, spinning and swinging their arms.
Joan O’Neill, 77, and her husband, Elden, 82, were among the 20 or so who joined the cardio line dancing class at the Paula G. Manship YMCA. Joan never left the floor, but Elden sat out the Macarena.
“I’m just not wild about it,” he says. “I have bad knees.”
Bad knees. Bad backs. Stiff joints. It all comes with aging.
The classes, which Peoples Health offers free to its members and nonmembers, is a way to get seniors moving and involved. But, says Peoples’ David Williams, the classes aren’t limited to those in retirement. Anyone can attend. Watch for class listings in The Advocate or call 1-866-220-0418 or visit www.peopleshealth.com to find out more.
Certainly, says Williams, the company would like to get more members. But there’s no sales pitch at the exercise classes.
“It’s more about getting seniors to stay active,” says Williams, who is the community wellness coordinator. “If you keep active, you stay stronger. If you’re active, it helps with weight control. You might have to take less medication. And you’re getting out and being social with others. So it’s an all-around wellness program.”
Joan O’Neill says stepping to the “Cupid Shuffle,” bouncing through the big horns of the “Mississippi Cha Cha Slide” and stretching through the “Pink Panther” theme keeps her limber.
“I have a bad back, a disc out,” says the spry 77-year-old. “I think it helps me move better. I try not to take pain pills … I just love the dancing. It’s a fun way to work out.
“And I love meeting people. I don’t like sitting in the house. And we used to love to dance,” she says, drawing her husband of 57 years into the conversation. “I really love the comradeship,” says Elden O’Neill. “I love getting out.
“I had cancer,” he adds, “and the first thing my doctor always asks me is about exercise. I can always tell him I’m doing it.”
Delores Dyer agrees the dancing is a fun way to work out.
“I love the music and I love to dance,” says the 61-year-old who retired two years ago. “And I’ve made new friends.”
She tries to hit the Peoples classes whenever she gets a chance.
“I’m a regular,” she says, adding with a laugh, “but I’m retired, so I like to play. It really depends on my schedule. I walk and do my treadmill at home and I volunteer.”
As for the young instructor, who has a kinesiology degree from LSU, getting her older charges to follow the beat is a pleasure.
“It’s really rewarding for me,” says Carlino. “When they walk out they’re smiling and they always tell me how much they enjoyed it.”
And, even if they’re not quite in step when Ronnie Milsap belts out the country licks of “If You Don’t Want Me To,” they’re still moving, she says.
“I tell them to do the best they can. And if something hurts, stop,” Carlino says, adding with a smile. “A lot of them just do their own moves, and that’s OK.”