On Thursday evenings, 11 Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community seniors gather at the Salt River Fitness Center to practice their line dancing moves to share with the Community and to stay fit. They are the Salt River Senior Steppers.
The group was formed in 2009 as a fitness program of the SRPMIC Health and Human Services Division to provide health and wellness geared toward the senior demographic. Most of the ladies had been members of a previous dance group.
“We meet once every week, learn new dances and go over our routines,” said Roberta Johnston, manager of the Diabetes Prevention Program and Senior Steppers dance instructor. “We do this to promote health and wellness through dancing.”
Senior Steppers is open to Community seniors ages 55 and older. Currently the group’s oldest member is 75 and the youngest is 58.
The Senior Steppers dance to a variety of music, but the group prefers country music because they do a lot of line dancing.
“I incorporate aerobic moves into some of our routines so we can get the benefits of exercising,” said Johnston. “That is the one thing about dancing—some of the ladies come to see it as not exercising, but just dancing and [having] fun.
However, it does help you stay in shape if you do it often enough, and there are times when we do dance quite a bit because we are always invited out to other communities to promote health and wellness.”
The Salt River Senior Steppers have performed in parades and at community events. In the Community Christmas Light Parade, they won first place in the Walking Group category for the second year in a row. They also participate in the annual Arizona Indian Council on Aging Conference aerobic competition and won first place the last two years.
“We’ve also received ribbons and other awards, and it’s been neat to get those. It gives us the feeling of ‘Hey, we’re not too bad!’” said Senior Steppers member Pat King.
The program has helped some seniors not only to get in better shape and stay active, but also to reconnect with the Community and the people.
Senior Steppers member Maria Chavez said, “It’s helped me in getting to know the ladies better. I really like the socializing that we get to do and going out and doing performances together. It gives me a chance to spend time with Community people, which I never did before because I was busy working, and reacquaint myself with some of them.” Chavez said that she has known some of the members since they were really young. “I really enjoy that it’s made me take better care of myself by coming out every week and trying to be a healthier person.”
Dolly Rangel shared that Senior Steppers was interesting to her because of her age; she knew a lot of the ladies’ parents, and when she came she was amazed because she remembered them from when they were little and would remember their parents. Rangel has diabetes and said participating with the group is good for her. She also works out at Scottsdale Community College every day to keep her diabetes under control.
“It helps me with my exercise. I come to the 55-plus exercise classes that Roberta teaches on Mondays, and I’ve been walking every morning for the past 11 months from my house to the Community buildings,” said Senior Steppers member Sharilyn Belone. That walk takes Belone one hour round-trip.
“In the beginning, some of the ladies were able to dance only maybe 10 to 15 minutes, and then we would have to stop and rest. Now they are able to dance 30 to 45 minutes straight without stopping. They have come a long way, and I’m really proud of their accomplishments,” explained Johnston.
Johnston hopes to start up a new beginner’s class for those who would like to join the Senior Steppers, and all interested men and women are welcome to join.
The Senior Steppers meet every Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Salt River Fitness Center. For more information, contact the Salt River Senior Center at (480) 362-7320 or Johnston at (480) 362-7342. The group is available to perform at events such as anniversary and birthday parties, graduations and any kind of celebrations. Look for them to perform at the upcoming Education Fair.