Esteemed Australian dancer, centenarian and all-around creative powerhouse, Eileen Kramer, can’t emphasise the importance of daily movement enough.
At 108, Ms Kramer finds no difficulty in exercising after almost a century of moving every day after committing to dance about 90 years ago.
Not every older person may be able to commit their life to dance, but Ms Kramer swears that simple and intentional movements can be done at least a few times a week to improve mobility and foster good health.
“Movement is vitally important to everybody but it’s true that older people should try to move all their lives,” she explained.
“Breathing is also really important… Movement requires breathing, so you must do it consciously together.
“Breathing encourages you to lift your arms and use your imagination – when you lift your arms you can pretend you’re touching space or leaning over the side of a boat and putting your hand in the water.”
Ms Kramer was born in Sydney in 1914 and was an original member of Australia’s first modern dance company, Bodenwieser Ballet.
After touring as a professional dancer both nationally and internationally in the 1940s and 1950s, she spent the following 60 years living and working creatively overseas.
Cautious to move in ways that won’t hurt her as she ages, Ms Kramer remains agile like all good dancers by using movement as a form of expression.
Daily movement exercises keep her prepped for dance, which includes changing body weight between each foot with as much grace as possible, slow turning and stretching all parts of the body.
“The sensation you get from expressing a feeling through dance is gladness, joy, sadness – whatever it is you are trying to express. You can feel the benefit of it,” Ms Kramer said.
“It can take a while to get used to it, but moving creatively makes you feel much better.”
When it comes to ageing, Ms Kramer doesn’t think about it much, as she is too busy living in the present and doing things she is interested in.
Ms Kramer’s career saw her live in Europe and America where she dabbled in other crafts such as mural painting, film making and modelling.
She returned to Australia in 2013 because she “missed the kookaburras and the smell of gum trees”, and has since choreographed and starred in two stage dramas, music videos and film projects including the Foxtel series The End which aired in 2020.
Ms Kramer published her first memoir, Walkabout Dancer, in 2008, and continued publishing books about her life and other fantasy stories.
She said barriers such as ageism or lack of self-belief are not problems for her as she simply focuses on creating more interesting life experiences, something she encourages all older people to do.
“Stop saying ‘I can’t do this now because I’m older or I have a grandchild’ – forget it! I don’t think about age and it doesn’t stop me from creating a dance,” Ms Kramer said.
“We’re all children – some have been alive for a long time and others only for a short time.
“I’m just someone who’s been here a long time, who’s had many interesting experiences and I’m still having them.”