My mother had six siblings, two sisters and four brothers. Her one sister Ruth and her one brother George were born blind. That did not stop my grandmother from having another child and his name was Louis. The two blind children went to the Maryland School for the Blind and then on to regular high schools where they excelled. They were like one of the first handicapped children to go to a sighted school as it was called.

They both had wonderful jobs and married spouses who had their sight. My aunt Ruth learned to cook, keep a clean home and she was a fantastic knitter. She knitted all her dresses and many coats and they were of different yarn colors and were full of intricate knitting patterns. People who met her could not believe that a sightless lady could knit like that. George was a medical secretary for the well known doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital. The respected doctors always requested that George do their transcription.

These two relatives of mine did not let their disabilities take away from their lives. They did volunteer work for organizations and were loved by their relatives and friends and their spouses. My brother and I adored Uncle George and we saw him often since he lived in Baltimore. Aunt Ruth lived in New York City where she went to the Broadway plays every month. She sat there and loved to go to the theater. She saw Richard Burton live in a Broadway play and wrote him a note how she adored him and could not see him. He wrote her back how proud he was she enjoyed the play.

Many seniors who go dancing cannot dance the way they did when perhaps they were younger. Some still go and sit there and maybe dance once or twice during the afternoon or evening. They still enjoy being there and socializing and getting out is a big thing in their day. One lady I know could not dance at all because of some orthopedic problems. She would come with her husband and he would dance with some other ladies and she sat there smiling and happy just to be in that environment.

An acquaintance of mine used to get up every morning and make a list of the doctors she was going to that day. One day it would be the podiatrist (that was ok because she did do some ballroom dancing and needed her feet to be in good shape.) The next day it was the dermatologist because she had a sore on her back. The next day it would be the internist because she had some aches and pains. The next day it was the orthopedic doctor because her knees hurt. She made the rounds of all the doctors and even went to her gastroenterologist because she had stomach pains.

She got to know the secretaries at these doctor’s offices very well and made sure she kept in good speaking friendships with them so she could call and insert herself into an appointment when she wanted it. One day she woke up and said to herself, no doctors today. Today I will go and do some ballroom dancing. I will take a lesson, I will look at a pair of new ballroom dance shoes, and I will practice with my husband in the family room. I will not go to a doctor this week.

That was quite a new method of living for her. No doctors, no secretaries, no driving to the various office. The only driving she did that week was for her dancing activities. She got excellent exercise; her mind did not think about illness and you KNOW WHAT? She felt good physically all that week. She decided she would frequent the doctor offices only when and if she really needed it. She would not go there to be reassured that everything was ok when in her heart she knew it was fine.

Ballroom dancing is like a good drug. It stimulates your mind; it exercises your feet, arms and neck. It enhances your good thoughts and it raises your esteem in your own mind. You are not sick, you need no doctors today, and you can and are surviving at this senior passage of time. Ballroom dancing is a stimulant that is good for your soul and keeps your mind active. Even if you go and sometimes sit out some or all dances, just going takes good courage. You are special and you do not need a medical person to tell you that everything is FINE. You know yourself that you are a good person and if you are feeling well enough to go out and dance or do dance activities, you are a golden senior, not a senile senior. That is the best gift you can give to yourself.

Keep on Dancing

Elita Sohmer Clayman
September 1,2006