Council Members Tap New Interest With Dance Class Group Has Money Available For Activities, But Lacks Participation

October 24, 1990|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Staff writer

The male voice on the instructional record tells the 10 students to jump-shuffle-jump.

He's talking about tap dancing, but the directions seem to apply to the way this senior-citizen dance class approaches life.

The tap-dance class is one of the activities offered by the year-old Seniors in Action Council, a small group composed of members whose ages range from the late 50s to the 90s. Their motto is "seniors helping seniors," and they want to have a lot of fun doing it.

The class is run in conjunction with the Department of Aging. The Seniors in Action Council, started by the Carroll County Department of Parks and Recreation, donated $100 toward paying instructor Kristy Sterling to conduct the class at the Dancing Made Easy studio in Westminster.

The donation came from the council's $5,000 annual budget for craft classes, speakers, bus trips, picnics and anything else the members decide they should support.

Yesterday, the council sponsored a bus trip to Atlantic City. For $20 each, seniors received a round-trip transportation and vouchers for lunch and gambling.

Robert and Helen Pepperney arranged the trip and said they enjoy the travel and other activities through Seniors in Action.

"She does the gambling. I go girl-watch on the boardwalk," said Robert, who is president of the council.

The only problem, they said, is that not enough people are coming to the meetings to give direction to the council. They thought about resigning their positions as board members, they said, but want to see the group succeed.

"We have things and money available. Our main problem is getting the participation. If each senior group would send a person to our meetings, we'd be in a better position to serve them," Robert said.

At 68, he is involved in enough clubs and activities to keep him at least as busy as before he retired from sales and service for General Electric.

"I'm thinking about retiring from retirement and getting a job where I can rest and get paid for it," he said.

Robert is an officer of the Westminster American Association of Retired Persons and president of the Randallstown Knights of Columbus retirement club.

Helen, 67, has always been active in the Maryland Orchid Society and several other women's clubs.

Both belong to the Liberty Lake Golden Age Club. They go bowling, take bus trips with several organizations and meet once a month to go out for dinner with three other couples. They have two grown children and three grandchildren.

Despite their full slate, they were intrigued a year ago when they saw newspaper ads by the Department of Parks and Recreation about the money available to start Seniors in Action.

Robert was elected president at the first meeting, which drew 45 people.

But the rest of the meetings seem to draw only about seven or eight people, Helen said.

"I don't know what it is," said Helen of the sparse regular participation in Seniors in Action. Robert wonders whether it just will take time and publicity for people to learn about them.

The meetings are conducted the second Tuesday of every month, are open to all seniors and no dues are charged, he said. The next meeting will be at 1 p.m., Nov. 13, at Horn & Horn Smorgasbord in Westminster.

Transportation is a problem for some seniors, Robert said, so the council tried moving meetings around the county. But attendance didn't improve, even with a guest speaker -- weatherman Bob Turk of WJZ-TV -- at last month's gathering in Silver Run.

"So we figure Westminster is sort of a central place," Robert said.

But even if seniors don't go to the meetings, the 10 women were having a great time at the Friday tap-dance class, which will go on through November.

"It was the first time I realized there was a Seniors in Action," said Hilda Harris, 64, of Coon Club Road in Westminster. She learned of the class through the newspapers last month. "I'd like to know more about what they do."

Before signing up for the tap class, Harris talked her friend, Ione Wunderlich, 64, of Taylorsville, into joining her.

"She said, 'Would you be crazy enough to do it?' So we had a drink and decided to do it," Wunderlich said, the two of them giggling.

"I was torn, until she said yes," Harris said, both of them laughing heartily after class. "It's just for our own fun, not to perform."

Instructor Sterling, at 18 about one-third the age of most of her students, said the elders make up her most enthusiastic class.

The children Sterling teaches often fidget, roll their eyes and get bored with the lessons their parents signed them up for. But the seniors really want to learn, she said.

This early in the learning process, the steps are broken down to such basics that the dancing looks nothing like Ginger Rogers. A few of the women asked Sterling to put on a quick display of professional dancing to keep them inspired.

"I have fun teaching them, because they have fun," Sterling said. "It's overwhelming. They want to do it. They're determined to do it."

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