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Karen Tomko, life enrichment manager at GreenFields of Geneva, begins her workday even before she comes into her office at the senior living community. The owner of Jazzercise Batavia, Tomko, first goes to the Dance Dynamics studio where she leads a Jazzercise class at 6:15 each morning.
Tomko had been participating in Jazzercise for more than ten years when she had the opportunity to start teaching the program and eventually opening her own studio. She’s also been working full-time at GreenFields, planning programming for independent living residents for the past two years. At the onset of COVID, Tomko was trying hard to identify ways to keep residents of the senior living community active. “Our residents are very focused on staying healthy and independent. Before COVID, many residents were coming down to GreenFields’ fitness center to work out daily. That had to change during COVID as they were remaining safe within their apartments,” she said. “We didn’t want that to result in inactivity.”
Tomko decided that she could present a fun dance exercise class for residents and broadcast it over the senior living community’s in-house television station. The residents could follow along within their apartments. “They could attend the class virtually,” Tomko said. Seniors Who Shake It Exercise class was born.
Tomko said the class draws as many as a dozen dancers twice weekly. For about half an hour, they shake and boogie along with Tomko, getting a great workout while having fun.
Tomko plays pop music for the class, something that the residents really enjoy. “I’ve heard them say, ‘it’s not what they grew up with, but how much Sinatra and Martin can we listen to!’ This is something different and catchy. Our ladies are shaking it to Macklemore, Pitbull, and Katy Perry!” she said. “Choreography involves a lot of brainwork. This is a perfect combination, keeping the resident active both physically and mentally.”
Tomko added, “The residents at GreenFields are a very active and energetic group that enjoys trying and learning new things. A non-traditional exercise class with pop music is the perfect fit.”
Now, as the community is open and programs are being offered in person again, Tomko is continuing to stream Seniors Who Shake It Exercise over the in-house TV, while offering some in-person sessions as well.
Click here to read the story as it appears in Chiccago Tribune PrimeTime