Food & Fitness After 50: Meet Jean, the Dancing Queen

“I won’t be old till my feet hurt, and they only hurt when I don’t let ‘em dance enough, so I’ll keep right on dancing.”

Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson,  U.S. Dancer

Three days a week, I muddle through a dance aerobics class at the YMCA, along with about 20 other women. While I have two left feet, Jean, our instructor, is a dancing queen. Jean, age 69, loves “music, dance, and movement,” and that is what drew her to dance aerobics over 40 years ago. In school she took every PE class she could fit into her schedule, but when she discovered dance aerobics, she knew she had found her favorite exercise.

Jean class 1
Jean, center, with dancing disciples

 

Girls weren’t always encouraged to be active

Jean grew up in rural Georgia and loved hanging out with her two brothers. She described herself as “tom-boy,” and everyday after school the trio would be outside “running, jumping, and climbing trees until mom honked the car horn to call us in for supper.” She realizes she was active in an era when girls weren’t. In high school she played basketball and was a cheerleader and in college she played intramural basketball. Over the years, she enjoyed all kinds of activity, from running (and completing the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington DC) to golf to cycling. She completed the Bicycle Race Across Georgia ten times! Jean and her husband, a high school and college football player, have passed their love of exercise to their children.

Her first stint at college got interrupted by motherhood, but she eventually went back to school to earn a social work degree. Between work, school, and family, Jean taught dance aerobics in small towns in northeast Georgia and South Carolina. At the time, there weren’t many fitness facilities, so she got resourceful and used elementary school gyms or church facilities…any space that would allow her to gather with a group of dedicated dance devotees. “There were times when it was so hot in the un-air-conditioned schools or churches that we moved class outside to the parking lot. It was still sweltering hot in the Georgia summer, but at least here was a breeze!”

Dance Aerobics finds a permanent home

For the past 10 years, she has found a home in the local YMCA, teaching at 8 AM three mornings each week. She changes up the hour-long routine about every 8-10 weeks to keep in interesting for the attendees, and for herself. “Exercise is serious business, but it has to be fun,” and we do have fun. Jean transfers her joy to her fellow dancers every day, but even more so on Halloween. She surprises us with her own special look as we dance to Michael Jackson’s Thriller.Jean halloween

Jean says it is more challenging to stay active as she ages, but says “you have to make the effort, because some days it is easier to want to do nothing. But, we all have to take responsibility for our health and fitness and find something we love to do and look forward to doing it.” For Jean, that something is dance.

Being well

Jean also stays well by playing games, reading, and working crossword puzzles to keep her brain sharp and says maintaining relationships with her friends and family keeps her aging well. And, of course, she moves everyday for the physical and mental benefits. “Movement makes me feel happy and I hope that everyone finds an activity that makes them move and be well.”

Learn more about eating well, moving well, and being well in Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon.