By Rebecca Flores
Hair, makeup and nails were taken care of by cosmetology students at Palo Alto College.
Once readied, many seniors were eager to dance the day away at the Senior Sweetheart Dance hosted by Councilman Rey Saldana. “They’ve raised their families and have contributed to the success of San Antonio. Our seniors deserve every opportunity to gather and socialize,” he said.
The seniors were grateful.
Virginia Hamel, 80, who belongs to the Cortez Senior Center, said, “I love it because it gets us out and we move and that’s the best part. Nothing’s better than dancing for you. And it’s social. Everybody needs to have a little joy and laughter. Music makes your heart sing.”
There are many great benefits that come from seniors getting out and moving around, whether it’s a psychological factor or even a health factor.
Dr. Stanley McCoy, psychology professor at this college, said getting out and being social benefits the lives of many seniors.
“Loneliness and depression are dangerous conditions for older adults,” he said. “Social interactions stimulate memory and creativity. Social interactions for senior citizens are often called ‘the vitamin S’ (the S stands for social interaction), which may be more important than diet for a long, healthy life.”
Felisa Valdez, 85 and a widow from the Somerset Senior Center, came alone, but that didn’t stop her. “I like to dance the cumbia because you can dance it by yourself.”
Psychology Professor Pamela Hill, who also teaches here, said, “Older adults can be strong, happy and wise. Most research finds that active elders live longer and more happily than inactive ones,” Hill said.
“A significant proportion of the elderly continue to work because work provides social support and status. Others retire, but maintain productive lives in other venues such as volunteering, more projects around the house, doing more cooking, or spending more time in hobbies,” she said.
Dancing also brings many health benefits. Professor Ryan Cabalu, who teaches anatomy and kinesiology for dance at this college, said. “Dancing is great overall, especially for seniors. One obvious reason is that you get to work out your cardiovascular system, which increases blood flow throughout the body, and moving also burns calories. With movement in general, I like to think of it as ‘if you don’t move it, you lose it.’ Just by coordinating movements, you also work your brain which helps with longevity and the overall health of the person.”