On a Wednesday morning, sunlight filtered through the Cache County Senior Citizens Center’s wide cafeteria windows. More than a dozen women do-si-do’d in nearly perfect sync as LaVern Baker and The Gliders played through a small boombox in the corner.
It’s an average weekday at the center, said Barbara Johnson, who comes to exercise and socialize at least three times a week. There are not many places that cater to senior citizens in Cache Valley, making the center a gathering place for many people more than 65 years old, she said.
Even though walking is a challenge for her, she said when she starts to move with the people around her, she doesn’t feel the pain as much.
“My knees are bad, yet, I get the adrenaline going, and I can dance,” she said.
The center is just as much about being social as it is about keeping active, she said. While some dance in the center of the cafeteria, others talk at tables, drinking hot chocolate or coffee and catching up on one another’s lives.
“The association is just as important as the activity. We never fight with one another,” Johnson said.
Johnson said she and her husband love to dance, so coming to the center is about reliving pastimes as well as the actual activity. She said she knows around 105 different line dances.
“It’s the most fun kind of exercise you can get,” she said. “We make mistakes, but we laugh about it.”
Although Reynaldo Masangkay won’t join the line dancing, he said he participates in a number of other activities — one of his favorites being Tai chi.
“I don’t want to be mixed up with this,” he said, pointing to the dancing women. “I just want to watch.”
Even though his face is partially shadowed by a black baseball cap that states: “Las Vegas,” Masangkay is quick with a smile and walks around greeting other visitors clustering around the round tables.
Under doctor’s orders, Masangkay said he uses the center three times a week to exercise. When not doing Tai chi, he can be found using a treadmill in the center’s auditorium.
“(This) is how I spend my days,” he said. “This is how I make my days.”
Mary Norton started teaching the Tai chi classes to seniors almost two years ago. She said she was looking for a place to do low-intensity exercise, when somebody suggested she visit the senior center.
She had only taken the class for a short time when the teacher asked to train her to teach. After studying for more than a month, she took over and has taught it ever since. She said it keeps seniors mentally and physically stimulated.
“It gives them some place to come where they can socialize,” she said.
She tries to make the class as accessible as possible, she said.
“In my class, even if they can’t stand up and do the stuff, they can sit in a chair and do the arm movements,” she said.
Marliyn Pope said even at 84 years old, she is able to stay active because of the senior center.
“It’s what keeps me going,” she said.
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