Local seniors keep their minds sharp by square dancing

Tuesday , July 22, 2014 - 12:00 AM

Standard-Examiner staff

OGDEN ─ Local seniors have found a way to stay physically and mentally active, and have a good time doing it. The Kaysville Komets, a square dancing club in Northern Utah, meet once a week at the Autumn Glow Senior Center for an afternoon of dancing and exercise.

Don Smith has been president of the club for the last three years, and has been dancing with the Komets for much longer than that. Smith said as he’s getting older, he’s noted the importance of staying active, both mentally and physically.  

“Those three things, as far as doctors are concerned, are the best things you can do as you get older,” he said. “I’ve read article after article about the fact that when you’re a little bit older, it’s important to stay mentally and physically active and socialize with other people. I’ve found that to be so true in my life.”

John Holman is the therapy director at Rocky Mountain Clearfield, a rehabilitation center. Holman said he frequently works with seniors, and has seen a connection between physical fitness and mental alertness. 

“Once we get them on an exercise program, we get their strength back and get their circulation up, they become more alert,” Holman said. “They start remembering things better, they start getting that motivation; they enjoy talking with other people and other patients who went through similar situations. Their lights come on and they become more alert, and then they start talking about, ‘What can I do to get better?’”

Barbara Simpson said she has experienced the benefits of staying active in her later years. Before dancing with the Komets, she used a walker and experienced pain in her lower back. But, since she began dancing years ago, she’s ditched the walker and said she does just fine without it. 

"Now it just hangs in my garage,“ she said. ”I have no use for it.“

Holman said exercise now is crucial to avoiding serious health risks later. 

“The biggest benefit (of exercise) is you keep your muscle tension, you keep your tendons tight, you keep your muscles tight and you keep your bone density,” Holman said. “It limits the effects of arthritis so you have less pain... And if you can keep that strength up, that translates into muscle balance because, if your strength is good and your muscle tension is good, that helps your balance and reflexes and you’re less of a fall-risk.”

Holman said he’s found that finding the motivation to exercise and sticking to a regular schedule are major challenges most seniors face when trying to stay active. He recommends finding an exercise partner to help as a motivator and to help his patient stick to a schedule.

However, for those involved in the square dancing community, there are plenty of opportunities weekly to get out and dance. With two other clubs located in the Ogden area, some members of the Komets said they go dancing three times a week.

“Doing those group activities and getting involved in something that is going to stimulate you mentally, socially and physically, they all are definitely connected and affect the quality of life of the geriatric population,” Holman said.

Mark Livingston has been calling for the Komets for almost six years, and calls for the two of the Ogden clubs. Livingston said, while club members get the added benefit of exercise, most dance simply to enjoy the friendly atmosphere.

“If you can come here for three hours and just forget some of your problems and some of your worries, and just kick back and have some fun and meet nice people and dance to good music, then we consider ourselves to be a big success,” Livingston said. 

For more information or to find a square dancing club, visit www.utsquaredance.org. 

Sign up for e-mail news updates.