CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A group of women at Brookdale Senior Living are proving that age is just a number as they cha-cha, foxtrot and waltz across the dance floor.
"When I first started to do it and try out I didn't know that we would be doing this," Brookdale resident Jean Grayson said.
Grayson is referring to the senior center's Dancing with the Stars performance. After months of lessons, the women decided to put on their own performance of the popular show... and it was a big hit.
As the clock struck 6 p.m. Sunday, there was only standing room available as fellow residents, family members and friends crowded inside Brookdale's large living room area.
In a different style of their Sunday best, six elderly women sat in the front "reserved for dancers" row in shimmering attire.
The idea for the entire event was conjured up by Brookdale's Director of Resident Programs, Terri Broome after hiring a chess teacher. The chess lessons were part of a signature program of Brookdale's called Grow Your Brain, focused on challenging their senior residents' minds with new, more complex activities.
"I heard that the guy that I had come to do chess lessons, which was what I started with because that's novel and complex, but it's not near as much fun as dancing," Broome said. "When I heard he did ballroom dancing a light just went off in my head and I thought, 'We have to ballroom dance!'"
The idea of dancing enticed a group of female residents who all say the weekly lessons have impacted them over the past couple of months.
"I hadn't (danced) for about 60 years," resident Aloise Burian said. "My husband had been a pro football player back in the early 40s before he went in the army in World War II. He had knee injuries so he didn't dance all the time I was married. Of course, since he passed away I hadn't danced until I came down and tried lessons here."
Now, you can't keep Burian off the dance floor. In preparation of the big night, she got a shot in her back for a problem-causing nerve, allowing her to move and groove throughout her entire combination of the rumba and cha-cha. A friend also came in to do all the ladies' make up.
"You just give me an audience and I go!" Burian said laughing. "That's all I need."
The performance and lessons have proved so successful, Broome plans on hitting the road with her group of dancing girls, visiting other Brookdale facilities in an effort to send a strong message.
"We're going to go around and show people what life in senior living is really like," Broome said. "It's not just people sitting around playing Bingo all the time."
Broome also participated in the dancing lessons and closed out the show with a tango of her own. While she's loved the opportunity to learn how to dance, she says the biggest takeaway for her is seeing dancing affect her residents.
"It's been so satisfying," Broome said while tears begin to glimmer in her eyes. "Seeing them enjoy themselves so much and just seeing seeing their face as they go around the room and as he's holding onto them and telling them what a good job their doing... is priceless to me. It's amazing."
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