Walking into the dance studio today, there was a feeling of excitement and maybe a little apprehension as no one really knew what to expect from this experience. This is the first time movement art classes are being offered through the PALETTE program and I am excited to be a part of this inaugural class. As I conversed with fellow participants before the start of class, I realized that regardless of our different backgrounds and experiences, we were all starting on the same page today. We were all a little nervous about what was to come, but also excited to be experiencing something new. The older adult sitting next to me commented about never being too old to try something new. I think this is true on many levels. For all of us today, trying something new was participating in a movement class without really knowing what that meant. As a child, it was learning to walk instead of crawl. As an older adult, it may be picking up a new hobby after retirement.
Today, it was exciting to see both younger and older adults trying something new together. We started by introducing ourselves and then had a chance to be creative right away with moving and making shapes with our bodies, and connecting with and moving with others. We later worked in small groups and took turns leading others with our own creative dance moves. Everyone had a chance to lead and follow through this exercise. My favorite activity from today was moving our bodies through space to spell our name. I am well-practiced at using my arms to spell out VCU during basketball games, but found it a challenge to think about how to represent my own name and having more freedom to move about than when packed into the student section at a game. We had a chance to share our name dance with the entire group and it was absolutely beautiful to watch everyone share something they had created and that was unique to them. By the end of class today, I think everyone seemed a little more relaxed and much more connected than we had at the beginning. I am looking forward to making deeper connections as the movement classes continue.
Kelly Hainline, graduate student in Physical Therapy
The first class today was a bit different than I had expected; I was thinking we would be having a dance class, where Melanie and the dance students would be teaching how to count music, showing positions, teaching basic movements, etc. However, I was surprised and excited to find out that the class was much more centered on individual creativity and improvisation. I was also very surprised how creative and unreserved the seniors danced. I had a preconceived notion before class that the older adults would be a bit shy, move a bit slower and wouldn’t be able to do some of the more advanced movements the students could do. I quickly found out this ageist opinion was very incorrect; overall the older adults were so much more free and energetic than the students! As I was dancing with my PAL, she was the one coming up with the quick, more advanced movements that I couldn’t keep up with! It was quite an eye-opener and it almost completely caused the generational-gap to disappear.
After just one class, I have already realized how similar older and younger adults are (after all, we are all humans!). Today, specifically, showed me how capable older adults can be. Society has the tendency to show senior adults as dependent, physically sedentary and uninvolved in the community. And because of the negative societal views on older adults, I have always just assumed I too would become dependent, physically sedentary and socially uninvolved as I age. PALETTE in Motion is already proving these stereotypes to be unfounded and is giving me a much brighter outlook on aging. I can honestly say the older adults in today’s class have inspired me and changed the way I look at aging. Growing older is something to embrace and to not be afraid of. I am very excited for the following classes and cannot wait to learn more about how dancing can bring generations closer.
Laura Morris, graduate student in Physical Therapy
Getting to know Ann is something I will always be grateful for. She has taught me so much about what it means to live each moment and to really make the most of today. Her positive attitude and bright nature continually rub off on me, and I always leave each class with a huge smile on my face, ready to take on anything. Ann continues to inspire me every day, and I know now that it is very possible to live a fulfilling and independent life, no matter your age.
As today was our last time with one another, I decided to bring a gift for Ann. I brought her a candle as well as a scarf. She loved both and even asked me to put the scarf on her. I was assuming she meant that she wanted me to tie it around her neck, but she quickly told me, “No! I want it like how you have it!” I proceeded to wrap the scarf neatly around her head, similar to how I wear mine. The fact that Ann was so keen to try the headscarf spoke volumes to me. It is evident that we have formed a special friendship over the course of the program, one that transcends any potential religious or age barriers. This experience with the PALETTE program has been absolutely wonderful and I am really glad to have participated.
Mariam Abuagla, graduate student in Pharmacy
Today was the last day of the PALETTE program. Bob and I actually had more conversation than we’ve had since day one. This is probably because we realized that we hadn’t gotten to know each other as well as we would have liked to. We started the day with print making, and in the middle of that we got to do the mirror painting! Printmaking was nice, but I absolutely loved the miror painting. I used a small brush and Bob used a large one, so on my side of the board it looked really cool because my lines had a back drop pretty much. He and I both laughed a lot at this because the board was filled with paint already so we were trying to fill in the blank areas as well as keep track of where we were! He told me I was good at keeping up with him! I appreciated that he said that because a lot of people would assume an older adult would need to keep up with the younger adult, but he did not cut himself short and I was proud of that.
I had a wonderful experience making art with my PAL Bob, he was definitely an interesting person and he and I both share some of the same qaulities so I am glad we got matched up. He has a young attitude and I feel like he had the exact same personality when he was in high school or college. I will miss sharing moments like this with him because I do not get to spend time with my grandparents so he was sort of filling that void in my life.
Today was a bittersweet day, as it was our very last PALETTE art class. The activity was called printmaking, where we were to paint on these plastic sheets and then transfer them onto our piece of paper, making 3 layers. My PAL Alice and I had both created very similar pieces that actually complemented each other well. We both laughed together at our art and said that they were “contemporary” pieces because they were made of mostly shapes, compared to some of the other beautiful pieces our other classmates created. Once we were done printmaking, we both walked together into the reception to look at all of our artwork from the semester and reflect back on all that we had accomplished. It was so wonderful to talk about our art and how similar our styles were to each other. Alice told me that she felt that she connected with people in my age group more because of our energy and that she did not like to do things with older people because they depressed her. I thought this was really interesting, especially because of our last class discussion we had about how individual people are and that their age has nothing to do with who someone is as a person.
I loved being a part of the PALETTE program this semester and especially having the ability to meet Alice. We connected so well and are extremely similar in our values and hobbies. We exchanged numbers to keep in touch and even have plans to hang out and do something later in June that we both enjoy. Before joining this program, I would have never thought that I could create such a wonderful relationship with someone who is from a different generation than I am. Alice and I are more alike than many people I know that are the same age as me, and I know she feels the same way. Age has no limits, and I now have no more fears of aging. My new relationship with Alice, and being a part of PALETTE is all to thank for that.