Community Center reaches out to ‘folks over 50’ about programs that promote vitality

Forming friendships, discovering new interests and staying engaged in healthy behaviors after 50 can have long-lasting and positive effects on one’s quality of life.

Last Thursday, the Community Center of La Cañada Flintridge showcased classes and programs that aim to benefit “Folks Over 50”— and solicited advice from participants on activities and events they’d like to see offered in the future — in a free open house and luncheon.

Maureen Bond, the center’s executive director, explained the expo-style event was organized as the city aims to identify what resources exist for residents over 50, and what might be missing. Highlighting the Community Center’s current offerings, while figuring out what people want to learn and do, was a natural extension of that endeavor.

“We’ve always wanted to do more for the seniors, because this community is definitely aging,” Bond said. “We want to find out what people are interested in. If 15 people wrote down today they really wanted to play chess, then we’d play chess — this is our way of finding that out.”

Feedback was requested from among the 80 or more locals who turned out Thursday for a free lunch and demonstrations by students enrolled in hula lessons, ballroom dancing and folk-dancing classes. A survey asked people to select categories of interest and share their own ideas.

Local retirees Martin and Nancy Ehrlich came to learn more about new offerings, like a functional-flow class led by Dr. Yvonne Ramirez of Nuvè Therapeutics that focuses on posture, flexibility and core strength.

Martin, who’s taken ceramics classes at the center in the past, indicated his interest in wine tastings, game nights and sports-related activities. Nancy, a crafter at heart, circled “flower arranging” as an interest on her survey.

“I’ve always had an inkling to try hula,” she added, after watching teacher Barbara Dempsey lead NoHo Hula dancers in the gestural art form that also supports head and neck functions and finger dexterity.

Students of Gabriel Tsai’s ballroom dancing classes stunned the audience with graceful renditions of the foxtrot, cha cha and rumba, and stories of their own personal struggles with aging.

For example, La Crescenta resident Bob Nicholson never really danced until he was 75, when a doctor ordered him to take a dance class at a nearby senior center. He’d lost wife Carol after 55 years of marriage, was depressed and felt he had nothing to live for anymore. His doctor thought a class with others his age might help.

Reluctantly, he acquiesced — it was the best decision he ever made. Today a 79-year-old Nicholson has neuropathy and walks with two canes, having had two knees and one hip replaced, but dances with partner and friend Emy Quema every chance he gets.

The duo strutted their stuff Thursday in a sultry demonstration of the tango, one of several dance forms taught at the Community Center.

“If it wasn’t for dancing, I probably would be in a wheelchair right now,” he said.

On the long road of life, Nicholson said he’s learned there are only three things you need to be happy — something to do, something to look forward to and someone to love.

That’s exactly what the Community Center’s programming for people over 50 aims to do, Bond says.

sara.cardine@latimes.com

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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