Silver Steppers share incredible learning journey through dance

IMG_4498Last July when Hospice North Hastings launched a dance program for older adults called the Silver Steppers, the goal was to provide a fun activity that promoted healthy aging and the strengthening of social connections. But six months later, the project has taken on a much bigger meaning for those who kicked, stepped and waltzed through the process.

Dance is important because it improves balance, flexibility, coordination and physical strength but the learning component of the Silver Steppers program was what made a big impact on those who showed-up week after week. The women in the program learned how to choreograph, they learned basic Latin dance moves, they did ballet, belly dancing and swing dancing workshops and of course, there was lots of line dancing.

Each week there were new challenges, lots of left feet, and real feelings of humility as everyone started to understand that it can take a lifetime to be really good at dance. The bigger learning started to happen when the Silver Steppers understood that real joy came from not what they looked like but from how they felt when they were picking-up new rhythms, learning new moves and seeing real progress in their abilities.

IMG_E4263There was laughter, camaraderie and then slowly, bit by bit, a life-changing revelations – perfect does not matter and that fear is best faced with friends.

The Silver Steppers project was funded by the Federal Government through the New Horizon’s for Seniors Program and part of the original grant application included the requirement of a final show at the Village Playhouse. As the program went along, the idea for the final presentation changed because, what was significant and meaningful for the participants was not just doing a final show – it was the entire journey that they were taking through dance so, a decision was made to document the process and turn it into a multimedia presentation as a way to share this very personal learning, inspiration and accomplishment.

On December 6th, the Silver Steppers will be at the Bancroft Village Playhouse to share their journey through dance. A short documentary will be screened that follows the project and the experiences of the women who took this leap of faith. Then, the Silver Steppers will perform a show-stopping, blockbuster dance number that incorporates all the different styles of dance that they learned. Following this, the women will be participating in a live panel where they will answer questions, share their stories and celebrate this amazing accomplishment.

The Silver Steppers project has taught this group of women that how something feels is way more important than how something looks and that while they are a bit nervous about getting up on stage and dancing in front of an audience; that fear is best faced with friends.

As the project facilitator, Barb Shaw had the pleasure of guiding this group through the ups and downs of learning, laughing, bonding and chasing big goals. She says it was a remarkable process.

Silver Steppers_Poster_11x17 WEB (2)“I learned so much from these women, watching them push their limits each week,” Shaw says. “Through support and nurturing they built a strong community, and this allowed them to achieve so much in a short period of time. It’s rare to find someone who wants to get up on a stage and dance in front of an audience, but these women are embracing their fear and showing the rest of us how great it feels to take a leap of faith. This will be the feel-good show of the season and I hope the audience will be packed.”

The Silver Steppers are Connie Sutherland, Jenny Gwilliams, Donna Ireland, Gloria McAlpine, Diane Gouchie, Jewel Wiggins, Diane Fuller, Beth Nadon and Fiona Koehler and they invite everyone to join them on Friday, Dec. 6th at the Village Playhouse at 7pm for their special night.

Tickets are $10 and are available at Harvest Moon, Posie’s, Vintage on Hastings, Hospice House, online at or at the door. Everyone is welcome to attend this event that is produced in partnership with Hospice North Hastings as part of their Caring through Culture initiative.