By ANGYE MORRISON
Senior line dancing at the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department is strictly for exercise — and strictly fun for all who participate.
The SilverLiners Line Dancing Group, taught by Thelma Kilpatrick, is for adults 50 years and up. Kilpatrick points out that line dancing is great exercise that is great for seniors.
“Line dancing is a physical as well as a mental exercise,” she said. “Numerous articles have been written on how good line dancing is for older people. Well, for anybody, because exercise is good for anybody.”
Kilpatrick first became involved with line dancing in 2000 when she moved back to her native Statesboro, to live in the house in which she was born. She wanted to do something for exercise, and decided to try line dancing.
“It was a senior deal, and I said, ‘Well, let me just go and check it out. I’m retired now and I can do this,’” she said.
The class was taught by Evelyn Deal at the time, and a year later, Kilpatrick was also teaching. She has danced since she was a small child, having studied tap, ballet and acrobatics, so dancing and teaching dancing were nothing new to her.
“I enjoy it because I know it’s good for me, and it makes you think. The older you get, the more you do not want to think,” she said.
Kilpatrick adds that with all of the turns and steps, it also helps seniors with balance. She works with her assistant, Sandy Gallemore, and the pair works to determine what steps and music the class would like, and what they can physically do. The class is comprised of mostly older ladies, but Kilpatrick says that occasionally, there will be college students joining them for extra class credit. But they don’t get to sit and watch.
“Their observation has to be to participate, because you learn a lot more by participating. It’s been amazing how those college students, when they get through and their tongue is hanging out, they say, ‘How old are y’all?’” she said, laughing.
Kilpatrick isn’t sure how many line dances her classes have learned over the years, but she will say it’s “a lot.”
“We try to keep them alert and aware and put something new in all the time. But we pull out periodically some of the old ones and throw them in. But we always try to go forward,” she said.
Due to concerns with COVID-19 during the past year, the class couldn’t meet for much of the time. But they are working to get back on track, and build up the number in the class. Kilpatrick says many of the students have been out due to illness or surgery. But she is confident the numbers will increase again, up from the five or six she has now.
Her class has gotten back together in recent weeks, and they found that they had lost a little of the stamina they had built up, but they’re working hard to regain it. Kilpatrick points out that it has just been strong evidence how much “dancing did to keep them going.”
In the past, the SilverLiners have danced at nursing and personal care homes, as well as the fair and Relay for Life. They also performed at the Statesboro Bicentennial Celebration in 2003. But performing is not the primary goal.
“We’re not a performing group. We’re there to exercise for our own good health,” Kilpatrick said, adding that she turns down many more invitations to perform than she accepts. But the group does get a lot of joy out of the reactions of those watching them perform.
For anyone interested in the class but feeling a little self-conscious, Kilpatrick says to not worry. No one will be paying attention to anything but their own feet.
“Some people are self-conscious at first, but they soon figure out that no one is paying attention to anyone else, because they’re focused on what they’re doing themselves. We have a good time. We laugh at ourselves. We laugh together and we just have a good time,” she said.
The Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks & Recreation Department is currently revamping its senior programs, and is asking for participation in a survey. You can find the survey link at www.bullochrec.com, under “Programs”— just click on “Adults 50+.”
SilverLiners classes are held at the Jones-Love building on Thursdays from 1:30 to 3 p.m. Beginners are invited to come at 1 p.m. Cost is $2 per visit.