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Steppin' Out For Health

Senior wellness team promotes exercise
Making a glamorous entrance in black outfits and silver top hats, Senior Wellness Team members wowed the crowd with their rendition of "All That Jazz" last Wednesday at the Fall Ball in Madras.
   Ranging in age from 63 to 88, the dancers gave a lively performance of chorus line kicks, shimmies, and dance cane routines -- all while seated in a row of chairs.
   The dancers were lead by "Chair Aerobics" originator Eva Montee, who is also the wellness coordinator and community health educator for Mountain View Hospital District.
   Montee began teaching Chair Aerobics 10 years ago when the Senior Center was still at Kollen Hall, and made an exercise video with kids for the Portland School District called "Chair Aerobics With Eva." Believe it or not, exercising from a chair can be exhausting, but it has the advantage of putting less impact on knees and ankles.
   Usually 12 to 15 seniors show up at the Jefferson County Senior Center at 10:30 a.m. every Wednesday and Friday for Montee's Chair Aerobic sessions, which are free and open to everyone. Many also participate in Line Dancing, which was an outgrowth for advanced Chair Aerobic classmembers like Paul Stevenson.
   Every October seniors on the Jefferson County Wellness Team attend the week-long Northwest Wellness Conference For Seniors in Seaside. Teams from all over Oregon and Washington attend health seminars, put on skits, hear speakers and bring back new ideas.
   This year Montee suggested the local team do a Chair Aerobics dance to the song "All That Jazz" for its skit, which was met with enthusiastic approval.
   She and her daughter, Tami Bush of Portland, who used to be in the Up With People dance group, designed the jazz routine, while team member Carol Elliott made silver vests and name tags for everyone. The name tags featured a top hat and cane with each member's photo and took first place in a contest at the wellness conference.
   "It took a month to rehearse. We made up the moves, then taught them to the dancers," Montee said.
   Their big debut came Oct. 23, when the Madras team gave their performance for an appreciative crowd of 320 at the conference.
   "Then we taught it that afternoon to anyone who wanted to take it back to their towns and had about 50 people show up," Montee said.
   At the conference, teams attend classes then develop an action plan of ideas to bring back and implement in their towns throughout the year. Montee noted the local team represents all Jefferson County seniors, not just the senior center.
   This was the third time senior Freda Stevenson has attended the Seaside conference. She said there were keynote speakers and classes on everything from Tai Chi to convenience devices to help incapacitated people stay in their homes.
   "All the meals were very nutritious and we had a lot of fun along with it. There were wonderful speakers. One talked on laughter being a healthful thing," Stevenson said.
   Elliott took classes in stretching exercise and holistic exercise for mind, body and soul and has already passed on the ideas through a program given to her Day Extension Study Group in Madras.
   "These are things we hope can make older people more aware (so they can) take better care of themselves," Elliott said, noting, besides being fun, the dance group gives the wellness team more visibility in the community to promote healthy ideas.
   The dancers have performed at the senior center and Fall Ball at Mountain View Nursing Home, and are making plans to entertain at the LaPine Senior Center. Dancers include AlysBelle Farrell, Freda Stevenson, Carol Elliott, Doris Thrasher, Terri Paxton, Anna Ashby, Helen Brackett, and Eva Montee.
   "It's the best thing in the world for my health," said Farrell, who also rises early to attend Montee's 6:30 a.m. Water Aerobics class at the hospital's pool.
   "That skit Eva made up and taught to us was just great. I went into it with a lot of fear and trepidation but I really had fun," admitted Farrell.