Aging Actively

Edina abounds with options for active older adults.
Bob and Deb Green enjoy painting at the Edina Art Center.

Age knows no limits when it comes to keeping busy. These days, older adults stay active in everything from art to dance to travel to continuing education and more. Staying active is a way to stay young at heart. Edina seniors embrace life-long hobbies that are not only social, they’re fun.

Some senior activities are free and open to the public while other client-based services require a budget. In any case, an investment of time garners the best results. During the golden years, without the daily career grind, seniors can schedule a variety of rewarding hobbies in Edina and beyond.

Anchors Aweigh

Travelers of any age can come on board a cruise ship, including seniors. A cruise can simplify many aspects of travel. Meals, drinks, landing tours, ground transportation and even air connections can be pre-arranged. All that’s left to do is unpack one time for the length of the cruise. “It’s an easy way of traveling,” Barbara Demos, Cruise Holidays of Edina owner, says.

Demos customizes travel plans to fit exactly what her clients have in mind. Her first-hand, expert knowledge about cruise lines, ports, tours, amenities and travel logistics makes for an all-around good trip. For 15 years, Demos has put together vacations to different areas around Northern Europe, the Caribbean, Alaska, the Mediterranean and other fun destinations. River cruises are especially popular these days.

Cruises offer a world of travel possibilities at any age. Get off the ship and take a tour, bike or shop. Passengers can enjoy ship-related social activities, such as cards, bingo, fitness center or spa, and casinos or just keep to themselves. Maybe something more relaxed is in order? Stay on board and dive into a good book.

Ships are priced from the bottom up: Top-tier views command top-of-the-line fares. Some ships have balcony suites with big sliding glass doors. “It’s all in how much you want to spend,” says Demos.

The flexible approach appeals to all age groups; even families with children get into the fun. Passengers can delve into ship-related social activities or just relax. Larger cruise ships have dance floors and some even feature dance contests. Brushing up on a few steps adds to the fun. For this, Arthur Murray in Edina gives hands-on instruction for ballroom dance and more.

Fancy Footwork

Anyone can dance. Even people in wheelchairs can learn, according to Lynda Smith, Arthur Murray studio owner and director. “Dance is a fun experience that brings together all ages.” About half of Arthur Murray’s clients are seniors, but dancing is as ageless as it is timeless in its appeal. Both couples and individuals enjoy the activity. “Most often it’s the woman who drags her husband in, but more often than not he enjoys it just as much as the wife or more,” says Smith. Widows and widowers have used dance to meet different people and break out of a shell.

Learning to dance involves a bit of time and money, but there are many rewards. For seniors, fitness, weight loss, balance and socializing are common goals. These benefits give dancers added confidence that spills over to other aspects of their lives. Seniors can “meet new friends and broaden their circle of friends,” Smith explains.

Dance can help counteract depression. “Our seniors tend to be healthier and health-conscious. They want their quality of life to be good, and dancing certainly helps with that,” says Smith.

Arthur Murray has a step-by-step program based on mastering levels and moving on to other challenges, with plenty of encouragement along the way. A combination of private lessons, group classes and practice parties can lead to master classes or dance competitions.

Beginners start with merengue, rumba, fox trot, waltz, tango, swing, the hustle, salsa and cha-cha. The list isn’t as long as it sounds because all of the dances share steps. Mastering one freestyle social dance forms the foundation for success in another, so the possibilities are as limitless as the art form itself.

Getting Creative

It’s no secret that Edina has a vibrant arts community, and seniors are a major component. Mature residents can unleash their creativity through visual arts classes. With classes in watercolor, drawing, painting, pottery, sculpture and jewelry, the Edina Art Center is a community favorite. “We have a long history of providing really wonderful classes to a senior population,” says Michael Frey, general manager.

Watercolor and pottery are popular picks. The EAC is known for its pottery instruction. Older adults and other students enjoy “getting their hands dirty and keep coming back,” Frey says. Current EAC pottery students can take advantage of open-studio hours to heighten their craft. Part of the fun is the camaraderie of other art enthusiasts. Creative expression is personal but shared. “Learning more art is the thing that fulfills them,” explains Frey. “They’ve always had a passion for this.”

Creativity takes many forms. The therapeutic qualities of watercolor are a big draw for older adults. Classes tend to be predominantly women. Some of Donna Webb’s Hauschka therapeutic painting (intuitive painting) classes are taught at the Edina Senior Center, giving some students even easier access. Watercolor painting allows “people to experience pure color and the emotion that they feel when working with the colors,” says Frey.

A supportive class setting can provide the inspiration students need to jumpstart their creative pursuits. Some students put their work in EAC shows. All solo and group exhibitions are free and open to the public. Classes have fees. An EAC membership offers discounts on classes and supplies.

Literary Love

It’s never too late to learn at the library, and opportunities go beyond checking out books and reading alone. The Friends of Hennepin County Libraries conduct book sales and other fundraisers. Book clubs, book discussions, chess club—all library programs and events are free, and Southdale Library has them in abundance. The Tuesdays with a Scholar series and genealogy classes are well-liked by area seniors.

The programming roster follows a seasonal calendar, so there’s always something new at the Southdale Library. In June, look for a Japanese wedding program. This multi-cultural event is expected to draw a sizable crowd. For full details on this special feature and other programs, visit the Southdale Library’s website. Filter by location, date or program to find more.

Endless Education

Older adults can also tap into complimentary computer services with direct access to computers and basic classes (the services are for any age). “We understand that seniors [may] need a little extra support when it comes to technology,” says Ayanna Muata, patron experience supervisor. Facebook, internet, emails, Microsoft Word and other basic computer classes can be appealing to older adults. The instruction is supportive and flexible. “Sometimes they will repeat classes,” Muata explains.

Continuing education is a way for seniors to get out and connect to others. The joy of learning can be contagious. When seniors enjoy programming, they come back with friends.

The chance to improve the lives of patrons drives the programming “It’s fun to see on a small scale,” says Paula Huttner, patron experience supervisor. “Ten people learn email and come back and use it.”

Edina Community Education focuses on lifelong learning for seniors and other adults. As part of Edina Public Schools, ECE bridges education and community. While many participants live in Edina, anyone can take classes here. Adult enrichment instruction caters to ages 17 to 100 and many students are in their 60s. Classes are designed fit personal interests, needs and schedules. The spring and summer lineup features approximately 90 classes in fitness, crafts, hobbies, computer technology and life skills.

Seniors often gravitate toward woodshop, barre classes, water aerobics and yoga. The Hatha yoga class is “very relaxing with gentle music and lights off, and very low impact,” says Michelle Glynn, adult enrichment and communications specialist.
Fitness classes are ongoing crowd-pleasers. Some classes have been offered for 10 years or more. “Our instructors have been working for a long time and they talk to people [about health and goals].” says Glynn. “They want students to succeed and continue.”

Computer training has also garnered a following among older adults. “Sharon Walbran’s Mac classes have a waiting list,” says Glynn. “We have really great senior instructors.” Walbran has been teaching community education for years. Learning and sharing information is what continuing education is all about, and that combination knows no age.