“We don’t stop playing because we grow old. We grow old because we stop playing.” —George Bernard Shaw
CASACA, the Capital Area Social & Activity Coordinators Association, supports life enrichment activities for over 60 long-term care facilities in Austin. "'Play' may not be most people’s first thought about nursing homes," says Maggie Gallant, CASACA's vice president, "but our residents refuse to be limited by their age or their physical impairments."
Gallant says the annual dances put on by CASACA give adult residents in long term care a chance to socialize, reminisce and show off on the dance floor. And, adds Gallant, "They tell these residents that they have not been forgotten about — that they are still part of our community and are still respected."
Ms. Gallant knows the difficulties in justifying the allocation of funds to the extended care community. "Often we're told 'they’ve already lived their lives and we need to focus on the future'. These residents never planned to end their days living in a nursing home. But they don't want our pity. They want to stay connected to the community that they helped to create. They want to remain active, have fun and prove that getting old doesn't mean giving up." CASACA's events give the elderly the chance to do just that.
To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of dances, CASACA is planning "A Dance to Remember" in October 2013. Held at a venue that’s worth dressing up for, there will be dance cards, attentive volunteer dance partners, a live band, and — by popular request, the first-ever dance-off. Gallant expects at least 100 residents to attend, and the $1000 grant from the Austin Awesome Foundation will allow CASACA to put on a truly special and memorable event.
Gallant says that one of the most profound moments she's witnessed at the dances was with Cathie, a resident with dementia, who had barely spoken in months, singing all the words to the song "Tennessee Waltz."
So is it possible to still do the Jitterbug, the Cha Cha or the Stroll when you’re in a wheelchair? In the words of a ninety-year-old at last year’s dance, “Honey, step out of my way and watch this."