by Thuy Hang
HA NOI — The elderly are getting a new lease on life thanks to the health benefits of bopping to the beat of disco music.
|Flex it: Elderly people enjoy a dance workout to some disco beats near Hoan Kiem Lake. — File Photo
Pham Thi Tien, 80, is among a group of about 40 senior citizens who can be seen each morning strutting their stuff in the shadow of the loc vung (barringtonia) tree by Hoan Kiem Lake. Most of the group are over 60 years old.
"After a month of practising [dance], I can see a significant change in my health. Tinnitus and a bad back no longer persecute me," Tien says smiling, donning a jacket at the end of the day's class.
Tien says her now grown-up children were shocked by the change in her energy levels and flexibility in the last few weeks.
"Their jaws dropped when they saw me bending my knees and sway side to side. They'd never imagined that their dear old mother could do modern dance."
The octogenarian, who runs a congee shop on Lo Su Street near the lake, says that business also seems to have picked up since she began her morning dance ritual.
Tran Anh Dao, 80, swears by the health benefits of dancing and refuses to miss a single session, even though she has to cycle 5km to the lake in the cold. Though because of her heart condition, she says she doens't overdo things.
"I take it easy. I don't dance too vigorously. Whenever things get too difficult for me I take a break," she admits coyly.
The class is taught by hip-hop dancer Nguyen Viet Thanh. He says that while dancing by the lake he used to get a lot of interest from woman walkers, who then began to imitate him, which is why he formed the class.
"However, I think the hip-hop movements are a bit challenging for them at their age. That's why I decided to teach them disco instead."
Thanh says that when devising a dance programme for his mature movers he focuses on light movements that are often used by dancers who are recovering from injury.
"I started to learn about dance moves for those recovering from injury six years ago when I myself suffered an injury. That's how I know what sort of movements are suitable for more elderly dancers who are physically vulnerable."
He says he focuses on movements that flex the neck, shoulders, back and knees because most elderly people have problems with these parts of their body.
And the benefits of these vigorous but not physically demanding movements can be seen in as little as four months.
"At the beginning, I had to hold the back of the park bench for support when practising movements such as crossing my leg, but now I don't need to do that. My leg and my knees seem to be much stronger," Dao says.
As well as agility, disco dancing is an excellent form of aerobic exercise and ideal for losing weight.
"The most significant result is that my waist size has been reduced," 53-year-old housewife Vu Kim Ngan says happily.
Le Thi Huan on the other hand just enjoys the excitement of it all.
"The fast-tempo music make me feel so alive and happy. It is also lovely to be outdoors in the fresh air by the lake," says a sprightly sixty-something, who lives on Hang Bong Street.
And it's not just the elderly who have caught Saturday night fever.
"It is so much fun to see the elderly moving so gracefully. I was also attracted by the music so I joined them to bounce to the beat. Since then, I have come every morning," says 20-something Thu Hoa. — VNS