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When’s the last time someone said to you, “Go out and play”? I’m guessing you were a child the last time you were encouraged to play.

Yet playtime is good for everyone. It provides the same benefits to adults as it does for children – physical and mental exercise that also allows us to use our creativity to interact with others and explore the world around us.

Thanks to your support of LCFS’ West Philadelphia Senior Community Center, older adults are finding a time and place to play. Whether it’s competing in a board game, creating a piece of art, or enjoying music and dance, our members are having fun and relishing the fellowship of friends.

One particular activity that I want to highlight is our creative movement class. During this one hour program, Sheila Zagar, a teacher, choreographer and performing artist, guides participants to tap their creative minds and wisdom, inviting them to express themselves.

In addition to having fun, the class offers numerous benefits. Movement tones their bodies, strengthens their muscles, and improves their balance and coordination. As they dance and move to familiar tunes, the music lifts their spirits, and their worries seem to melt away.

Sheila also provides time for storytelling, encouraging participants to share memories. Through music and dance, people are more able to recall their past. They might remember a place, time or event – shadows of their past that they may not have thought of for decades.

Qussie tells the class that, because she grew up in a house heated by coal, her dad taught her how to make fire to keep warm. She recalled her time early in the military when, on a cold night, she used those skills and helped soldiers build a fire for heat and hot water.

Sudell shares how she got excited about food. Being from South Carolina, her mother only made dishes that she knew from the south. Sudell became intrigued by different cultures and foods, as she had never had a hamburger or pizza before moving to Philadelphia. She once traded a pork chop for a hot dog, and adds that an Italian woman taught her how to cook spaghetti. Today her children share her love of food.

These stories and many more are precious. By giving class members the space and time to share those memories, their stories and their collective history is not lost. They become united in their new, shared experience, just as friends on a playground.

Through creative movement, older adults strengthen their bodies and minds while building bonds of friendship. Members inspire one another and find meaning in sharing their stories together.