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Articles of Interest » LA Chapter Community Outreach » Senior Outreach Program

Senior Outreach Program

Laura Harvell and Alexandra Caluen

"Your participation helps Keiro enhance the quality of life for residents and their families… as well as promote healthy lifestyles – what we call 'genti living'…" – Takako Kasunaga, Activities Manager, Keiro Retirement Home

Purpose of the Senior Outreach program:

To educate seniors about the benefits and joy of ballroom dancing - and to entertain!


This program was initiated in June 2008. It started off small with three to five couples performing every two to three months. We had about 35 volunteers initially. From 2009 to 2011, the program grew and we typically scheduled a performance every month with 6 to 10 couples performing. In 2011 we had 14 events with 51 volunteers participating at 10 different locations. We have performed at 21 different facilities throughout Los Angeles*, and continue to add new locations. The facility coordinators always ask, "When can you come back?" And quite a few of the residents have told us "This is the best entertainment we have ever had here!" We currently have 96 volunteers, and that number continues to grow.

Following are the past Senior Outreach Coordinators:

6/08 – 5/09 Jo Panitch and Marilyn Tucker
6/09 – 5/10 Julie Billig and Laura Harvell
6/10 – 5/11 Laura Harvell and Sue Barr
6/11 – 1/12 Kelly Richardson
1/12 – 12/13 Laura Harvell and Sue Barr

2014-2015 coordinator: Irit Barak!

How it works:

What a great gift to the senior residents and to the volunteer dancers to give and receive the joy of dancing! If you are interested, you are responsible for finding your own partner, choosing a dance, and providing music to the coordinator. We have all levels participating – from beginners to advanced, and even a professional every once in a while. The senior residents love all of the performers – your level is irrelevant – just bring your joy of dancing to share with others. Some couples get together to practice and put together a little routine; others just come and wing it. Usually we have about 45 minutes of couples performing for the seniors, and then we open it up for 15-20 minutes to invite the seniors to dance with us. I'm amazed how many former dancers there are out in the senior community! Although some may not be able to physically dance, we get them moving and clapping in their chairs, and bring lots of smiles.

Contact us, using the "Contact Us" link on the menu bar on the rigth side of this page, if you are interested in joining the Senior Outreach team and want to be included on the mailing list.

The 2015 schedule is attached as a pdf document which you can print out for ready reference. Please note that dates and times are determined by consultation with the facilities.

The Senior Outreach program is, like all chapter programs, run entirely by volunteers. It's best for the programs and for our volunteers to have new people joining and leading the teams.

Updated to add:

Participants in this program are responsible for finding their own dance partner and preparing their own dance to perform. Some participants work with their coaches, others work as couples. When you have selected your music, record your track as a single track on a CD. The chapter provides a CD boombox to the program. No participant is required to dance at any number of events - you may dance once a year, or every month - and you do not have to dance with the same partner each time. Some participants do more than one performance at some events. Do what works for you!

Coordinator responsibilities:

  • Coordinate volunteers to perform ballroom dances at retirement homes to demonstrate the joy of dancing and to encourage participation. We have a Constant Contact group specifically for Outreach.
  • Contact retirement homes to schedule outings (visit locations to evaluate feasibility of location, e.g., floor size, floor composition, parking).
  • Solicit and coordinate volunteers to perform.
  • Maintain Excel spreadsheets for assisted living locations and volunteer dancers.
  • Coordinate logistics for the showcase event (stereo, extra music, sequencing dances, introducing volunteer dancers and dances).

* LA facilities currently include West LA, Valley, Beverly Hills, South Bay, West Hollywood & Boyle Heights (and we keep expanding)

Words from our participants:

David S: "I've never felt more appreciated. I "hand-danced" with one woman in her 80's in a wheel chair. She absolutely loved it, just moving with us in the chair. She told me she contracted polio at 21 before Jonas Salk found the vaccination in the 50s and she has been in the chair around 60 years. Bitter watching other 80 year-olds dancing? Not a bit. She loved every minute of it!"

Joe L: "One sweet lady kept kissing me, making eye contact the whole time we were dancing, and couldn't have been more enthusiastic about what we were doing. She sat next to a man who was holding her hand, so I asked his permission to dance with her. She told me he was 101 years old; he corrected her, admitting only to 100. At The Gardens, it was similar, except we didn't perform. Rita, a cute, tiny woman told me she had been a June Taylor dancer and Anna, a tall woman, asked me to get her back to her seat quickly because her pants were falling down. Few still had all their original body parts and still danced. I loved them! What a treat!"

Marc K: "I often had the thought that the last thing I would want to do, when no longer able to dance or for that matter, walk, (notice "when" not "if") was to see a bunch of young-wipper-snappers out there dancing and hooting and moving and grooving and carrying on … like a bunch of young-wipper-snappers. This past Sunday shed light on how mistaken I was. I was dancing with a lady with one arm. She was fabulous, cheerful, and a good dancer on top of that, though a little short of wind. She told me that it was the most fun she had since going into the home. Another lady told me that watching the show, and (being coerced by myself) into dancing was the most fun "this place has seen in 3 years"; obviously she didn't go to our previous engagement at the home. So … for those that don't know that us wipper-snappers do bring joy, take heed. We do! Pass it on!"