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Aroostook Health Center Hosts 

Zumba Exercise Program for Seniors

Fort Fairfield Journal, November 28, 2012

While the Zumba dance craze made headlines for all the wrong reasons at the southern part of the state this fall, its popularity is growing in northern Maine, including with senior citizens at a Mars Hill rehab and long term care facility.

The Zumba Gold fitness program at the Aroostook Health Center (AHC), a division of The Aroostook Medical Center (TAMC), has seniors there moving and grooving to Latin and international dance rhythms and having the time of their lives. The program is offered to AHC residents monthly and participants can do the dance exercises right from their chair.

“I feel so alive when I participate in the Zumba Gold chair workout,” said Priscilla Smith, a resident of AHC who looks forward to each session. “This program has helped with the flexibility of my fingers, which is great because I enjoy playing the piano. When the music starts up it’s hard to sit still. It’s like our own dance party.”

The program is offered at AHC once a month as part of a large number and wide array of activities offered to residents. Theresa Bonner, Zumba Gold instructor, leads the participants in the modified dance moves in order to get them moving.

Zumba Gold is a specialty program that is directed towards active older adults. It consists of the same dance and fitness routines as the original Zumba program but is performed at a lower intensity. The basic dance moves are easy to remember and the up-beat music makes this form of exercising enjoyable.

“When teaching the Zumba Gold chair class you have to take into consideration the range of mobility of the participants,” said Bonner. “These seniors grew up doing the cha-cha, swing, and twist so they were used to moving and dancing to fast paced music. During each session I play songs, such as Grease Lightning, that the participants can relate to in order to make their exercise experience more enjoyable.”

The Zumba Gold chair fitness program Bonner offers is a class that doesn’t require the individuals to stand. She teaches the class sitting down allowing those patients in wheelchairs or beds to be able to participate. Bonner focuses on the movement of the legs, feet, arms, fingers, and shoulders. Each step is basic and doesn’t push the individuals past their limitations.

“The employees at AHC wanted a way to increase the residents’ range of motion and exercise time,” said Kelly Lundeen, director/administrator of AHC. “What better way to create motivation among our residents then through music. The Zumba Gold Chair program seemed perfect for our facility because when anyone hears the rhythms of this music, you can’t sit still.”

A recent article published in Aging Well, a bi-monthly publication for professionals in geriatric medicine touts both the physical and psychological benefits received by seniors participating in a Zumba Gold program. According to the piece, “the program gets the patients moving which will help preserve, restore, and improve their range of motion. The Zumba Gold chair workout improves the individual’s posture which can make daily activities easier to do. The individuals taking part in the workout also experience the social connection between peers since it is a great way to build relationships. The music itself can lighten the mood and it doesn’t even feel like the participant is working out but simply having a good time with friends.”

Since being recently introduced at AHC, all of the same benefits have been realized by residents at the facility. Excitement for the new activity offering has also spilled over to staff members, who are now looking to increase the number of times the program is made available to residents.

“It brings our staff joy to watch the residents partake in the Zumba Gold program,” said Lundeen. “Many employees will join in the Zumba Gold session which creates a bonding experience among residents and staff. At this point we only offer Zumba once a month, but our goal is to host it twice a month since it is such a success with the residents. We want the residents to ask for Zumba Gold like they ask for Bingo.”


Above photo, courtesy of TAMC



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