Jun 05, 2019

Bold Ballerinas take to the barre

Pirouetting pre-schoolers and chasseing seniors have proved you’re never too young or old to become a ballerina.

Residents of Feros Village Byron Bay have been attending ballet lessons as part of the Feros Care Bold Ballerinas initiative that aims to improve strength, balance and flexibility through dance.

After a few classes, the dozen seniors, with an average age of 90, were joined by four-year-olds from Byron Bay Preschool and, according to Feros Care Positive Living Manager Bec Stephens, that is where the real magic happened.

“The ballet classes have been fantastic for the residents and you can see the positive effect it has on their mood and wellbeing,” she said.

“The residents really look forward to their ballet lessons and then when the pre-schoolers arrived, the energy lifted and there was a real joy on everyone’s faces.

Residents play musical instruments as the children dance around them. Image supplied.
Residents play musical instruments as the children dance around them. Image supplied.

“To see the way our residents responded to the children and the way the pre-schoolers admired and cared for our seniors made you feel all warm and fuzzy.

“One of our senior ballerinas, Val, had to take a little break and two little girls went to sit and chat with her before helping her back to the barre with her walker. It was so touching.

“Despite the age difference, the music and dance had an effect on everyone and it was a beautiful reminder that we are inherently the same, no matter our age.”

Alan Harkness (88), who is one of two men and eight women who have been learning simple ballet moves including plies, port de bras and polka, said it was a unique opportunity and one he was pleased to be part of.

“It’s just wonderful to be able to work with the little kids,” he said.

“I expect for the kids it’s like a big adventure and for us oldies it’s just lovely to get the chance to interact with them.”

The Bold Ballerinas project is one of many initiatives by Feros Care to help seniors remain active and feel connected.

“Research has found that dancing improves strength and muscle function in older adults, as well as increasing balance and flexibility, leading to better stability and fewer injuries,” said Ms Stephens.

“Studies show dancing can also improve cardiovascular health, decreasing the risk of heart disease.

“Apart from the physical benefits, we have found that giving residents in our aged-care villages opportunities to try new things, rather than just being nursed, has immeasurable benefits to their overall happiness and wellbeing.”

Dance Dynamics Byron Bay ballet teacher Leisel Fitzgerald, who is also an aged care worker, said being able to combine her “two worlds” had been incredibly rewarding.

“As someone who both loves dance and works in aged care, it’s been wonderful to see how the residents have embraced the classes,” she said.

“At their age it’s not about fitness or becoming experts but being involved in the community, overcoming isolation and bridging the generation gap.

Resident Mary Tompkins accepts a handmade card from preschooler Felix Guthrie. Image supplied.
Resident Mary Tompkins accepts a handmade card from preschooler Felix Guthrie. Image supplied.

“The seniors enjoyed the first few classes and when the children then got involved, they were over the moon. We also weren’t how the little ones would respond but they loved dancing with the residents.

“At the end of the day, if the residents and children are smiling during the classes, I’m happy.”

The ‘bold’ and ‘baby’ ballerinas had their last class today (June 3), where they performed for family and other residents before enjoying morning tea.

Byron Bay Preschool educator Sharon Bourne said the school was thrilled to have been invited to take part in the initiative.

“It’s lovely to see the interaction between the preschoolers and the older community and the benefits are far reaching,” she said.

For more on Feros Care, visit www.feroscare.com.au

Lead image: Dance teacher Leisel Fitzgerald with resident Jill Richardson (99) and children Silvy Zohra and Florence Giutvonich. Image supplied.

The article was written by Feros Care. Images supplied.

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