Edina Seniors: Lifelong Learning Opportunities

Edina seniors embrace lifelong learning opportunities.
Edina has many opportunities for seniors to get involved, like nonprofit tap dance group The Rhinestone Rockettes.

You wouldn’t know it by their graceful tapping and stylish top hats and fishnet stockings, but the Rhinestone Rockettes are no spring chickens. The Edina Senior Center-based performance troupe's dancers range in age from 64 to 76. Every Wednesday morning they rehearse old tunes from the 1930s and ’40s such as Glenn Miller’s wartime hit “In the Mood” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy,” or they unveil pink and purple umbrellas for “Singing in the Rain.” A couple times a month the Rockettes perform in front of church groups or at assisted living facilities in the Twin Cities. Formed in 1987 by the late Ruth Bakken, a dance studio owner, teacher and choreographer, the troupe is down to four Rockettes (from a high of 17 about a decade ago). In other words, they're always looking for new members. Anyone with some dance experience is welcome to join. And dancing is a great way to keep both body and mind in shape as they age.  “When I was young, you could only dance or join the Girl Scouts,” says current choreographer Stephanie Stockton, a West Saint Paul native who began dancing at age 6. “Girls had to work at the concession stand while the boys played baseball. But now we can do everything!” Stockton was 13 when she first performed on stage—at the Bloomington Civic Theatre, the first version of West Side Story held outside of New York.   Meanwhile, at Monday afternoon rehearsals, a gang of rowdy adults, ages 55–91, sing popular Broadway tunes, patriotic ditties, love serenades and holiday songs—with voices raised, toes a-tapping and lots of laughter. Observers linger and sing along to the familiar beloved melodies. The 40-year-old Edina Singing Seniors group, led by the dynamic Dave Walters, performs twice a month and is just one of many entertaining opportunities for local seniors to learn and engage.  Senior citizens love Edina, and Edina responds in kind with a plethora of opportunities for recreation and a rich array of ongoing adult education classes to keep mind and body young. The Edina Senior Center moved to its current location in 2002 and remains an excellent resource for fun, personal growth, camaraderie and entertaining classes. The range of options is staggering—from health maintenance to brain stimulation to scratching that creative itch, there is something novel and interesting for everyone to enjoy.“The senior center started in 1969,” newly retired past-director Sue Weigle says. “The programs are very popular, especially the trips and tours, and duplicate bridge programs.” There are now 81 volunteers at the center, and new ones are always welcome. Director Donna Tilsner encourages anyone interested to stop by or sign up for a free newsletter. The senior center also hosts Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) classes and programs on topics such as genealogy, mythology, religious studies, art history and topics on social justice. OLLI leads local field trips to historical sites, picturesque locales and museums. Check the OLLI website, edina.thatscommunityed.com, for listings.We’ve picked a few standouts that open up a world of ideas and action in every aspect of daily life. Pick up something new, revive a former passion or deepen your daily enjoyment. Get out there and enjoy those golden years. Doctor’s Orders Yes, we all know that eating a nutritious diet and staying active are important to maintaining good health. But sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to exercise; other days, healthy meal choices seem impossible. There are many health and fitness classes geared toward seniors at the Edina Senior Center, including a once-a-month blood pressure clinic, bike and walking clubs, a robust softball team that recently captured several state championships, armchair fitness (“fit sit”), low-impact aerobics, golf and bowling. Fairview Hospital Southdale also offers programs to promote a salubrious lifestyle. Join your peers in a spirited mission to maximize good health. Gentle YogaEdina Community Center hosts recreational, educational, health and social service events at Edina Senior Center. The center offers a class with a gentle series of warm-up exercises and beginning yoga poses, along with breathing, centering and relaxation practices. Gentle yoga is a great way to keep limbs loose and balance steady.PickleballPickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the country—sort of a cross between badminton, tennis and racquetball. Pickleball has less lateral movement than tennis and is easier on the joints—it’s a gentle workout plus social interaction. Tilsner, who’s also the city’s parks and recreation supervisor, is part of a local pickleball craze, so keep your eye on an open space near you.Fairview Hospital Southdale Brenna Vuong, senior wellness specialist at Fairview Hospital Southdale, heads a division dedicated to initiatives and programs to promote healthy senior lifestyles. Get tips about nutrition and exercise. Show BizDid you miss your calling onstage? Now’s your chance to sing, dance and make music with fellow performance enthusiasts. Drop those inhibitions and let it out: Self-expression through music and movement is always a good thing.Twin Cities Harmonica SocietyNew to the harmonica? Come to a Twin Cities Harmonica Society meeting and see what you think about this versatile, portable instrument. Established in 1977, this club welcomes all levels of experience. If you like what you hear at the meeting and want to join, pay a nominal membership fee, buy yourself a mouth organ and you’re in. The Harmonica Society meets at the Senior Center on Monday evenings.Edina Singing SeniorsThe group started 40 years ago as the Edina Swinging Seniors, performing skits and vaudeville as well as singing popular tunes. Today’s iteration of the musical club performs twice a month from September to May, hitting a variety of senior citizen sites, such as nursing homes and individual-living campuses. The program is an hour long and features a selection of patriotic tunes, love songs, yesterday’s hits or holiday songs. The sing-along format is popular with audiences; a piano, violin and guitar add texture. The group is always looking for new members, and no tryouts are necessary—all you need is a desire to sing.Rhinestone Rockettes This nonprofit women’s tap dance group performs in glitzed-out top hats and fishnet stockings. No previous dance training required; you’re guaranteed a physical workout as well as the mental challenge of learning new routines. Dance numbers run the gamut from Broadway musicals to specially choreographed tap routines. Contact the instructor for an audition, 651.454.2103.Playing PicassoWhether you want to revive a long-ago passion for painting or embark on an entirely new aesthetic adventure, there are numerous ways to enjoy creating fine art. The Edina Senior Center boasts an array of outlets for self-expression, hosted by Edina Arts Center, including:Earth, Water, Air and Fire: Painting the Elements: Hauschka Therapeutic Watercolor. This is an eight-week class for newbies that delves into color theory and the creative process. Instructor Donna Webb invites all levels to participate; no experience required.Wheel Throwing Boot Camp for Advanced Beginners. This class is for those with a background in ceramics, focusing on wheel-throwing skills through intensive practice. Perfect your technical skills while learning new forms and glazes.Craft Group: Bring your own work and share whatever you’re working on—be it scrapbooking, making cards or sewing. Swap tips and information and enjoy each others’ company while creating. BrainiacsKeep your mind active with classes including: Kindle, Nook, iPad: Don’t let your grandkids leave you in the cyber-dust! Get to know your gadgets on an intimate level with this user group led by a fellow senior. You can share what you’ve learned with each other and together figure out how these wonder-machines can improve your life in a clear, comprehensible fashion.Mind Twisters: Keep those synapses firing with 500, canasta, scrabble, mah-jongg, cribbage, bridge, poker and other intellectually challenging games. Meet fellow competitors, enjoy a refresher session on the rules of the game and while away the time kicking everyone’s booty—there is nothing more therapeutic than sweet victory.Bookworm Clubs: Two senior-run book clubs meet on a monthly basis. The Tuesday and Thursday groups tackle all different kinds of books by readers’ choice. At press time, the Thursday group was reading Drift by political commentator Rachel Maddow. &Edina Senior Center membership costs $17 per person or $27 per couple; special deals are $22 and $36 for members through 2014. Members receive a monthly newsletter and priority registration for events throughout the year. Call to receive a complimentary newsletter: 952.833.9570