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Dance class aims to improve health in seniors

It doesn’t matter whether participants are seasoned professionals or have absolutely no dance experience at all. Everyone over the age of 60 is welcome.

The Fort Erie YMCA is offering a program that’s targeted to seniors to help with mobility concerns, balance issues or early signs of memory loss.

The program, which is called GERAS Dance, is being offered in partnership with Hamilton Health Sciences and the GERAS Centre for Aging Research.

It was developed by rehabilitation and geriatric medicine specialists including Dr. Alexandra Papaioannou, Dr. Courtney Kennedy, Dr. Patricia Hewston and their team at Hamilton Health Sciences and McMaster University

“This is the first time this program will be in Fort Erie,” Hewston says.

“It’s an adaptive ballroom dance with many different styles like the Tango and the Fox Trot.”

Hewston says the program runs for 14 weeks at the E.J. Freeland YMCA beginning March 19. Classes will be held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 to 2 p.m

According to Hewston, the emphasis is on fun and no experience is required. The program focuses on improving mobility, balance and strength for seniors, and offers a mixture of seated and standing movements.

The cost of the program is included in a YMCA membership or $90 for the program. Financial assistance is available.

She says that a pilot GERAS Dance program was done last year at the downtown Hamilton YMCA — and had very positive feedback. The program was so successful that it was expanded to 12 YMCAs across Oakville, Hamilton, Brantford and Niagara, including Fort Erie, Niagara Falls and Port Colborne.

“After our pilot study, which we did last year, people had reported less fear of falling,” she says.

Hewston said statistics indicate falls are the most common cause of injuries among older adults and that every 13 seconds an individual ends up in the emergency room due to a fall.

Other benefits of the program include an opportunity to try something new and make new friends.

“The people that participate in our pilot program reported they developed friendships and 100 per cent of the people said they would recommend the class to an individual or their family,” Hewston says.

“(The program) is about having a fun social outing than the dance itself. You don’t have to have a partner as you dance by yourself in this program. You don’t have to have experience and it’s something new to try.”

Seniors are welcomed to watch a demonstration of the GERAS DANCE program on Feb. 12. 2019 at the E.J. Freeland YMCA from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. The demonstration will give prospective participants a chance to meet instructors and learn how to join the program. Refreshments are provided.

For more information about the program call the YMCA at 905-871-9622 or visit

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