Participants have fun and get in a workout at “Steppin’ into Health” line-dancing classes with the Purple Charlotte Steppers at West Charlotte Recreation Center on Tuesday mornings. Photo: Qcitymetro

For Charlotte seniors, ASC’s Culture Blocks programming, funded by Mecklenburg County, provides multiple options to fill their social calendars and continue lifelong learning. In addition to pottery workshops and music programs, seniors can enjoy a healthy, fun workout in line-dance classes or learn about birds of prey right in their own backyards.

Culture Blocks partners with local organizations, such as the Purple Charlotte Steppers and the Carolina Raptor Center, to provide free arts and cultural events at libraries, parks, recreation centers, and other relevant community spaces in Charlotte-Mecklenburg.

Some workshops may require registration but many can be enjoyed just by walking into your local community center. Here are two of the senior programs currently taking place in neighborhoods.

Step into Health

The Purple Charlotte Steppers host “Steppin’ into Health,” a line-dancing workshop, at the West Charlotte Recreation Center. The Tuesday-morning program is a great way for seniors to stay active, have fun, and build relationships. At the start of each workshop, health monitoring of blood pressure, BMI, weight and pedometer steps are taken and progress is accessed mid-workshop and at the end.

Demond Carter

Demond Carter, Purple Charlotte Steppers founder and instructor, said the pace of the class assures participants are challenged but the dances are not so difficult that they can’t get it. Carter said he wants the seniors to have “an accomplishment each time they come out.”

“It’s good exercise,” said retiree Elwyn Crawford, 69, who began taking lessons in mid-October. At parties, whenever a line-dance formed, Crawford said he would retire to the sidelines, afraid he’d step on toes or bump into someone.

Thanks to the classes, Crawford was able to join in the line dances at a holiday party, and “I was ecstatic,” he said.

When Ayana Moreland, 70, heard about “Steppin into Health,” she thought, “it’s free, fun, good for my health — I can’t turn that down,” she said with a laugh. Moreland hopes the workout will help improve her high blood pressure results.

Moreland and Crawford say Carter’s energy, patience and positive attitude make it easy to learn and adds to the fun. Harriett White, 71, also sings his praises, affectionately calling Carter “the dancing man.”

White said the classes motivate her mentally as well as physically and she has more energy. “You can feel your whole body when dancing,” she said.

Join the program:  “You don’t have to be a great dancer” to join in, said Moreland. “It doesn’t matter what level you are, you just go at your own speed.”
When: Every Tuesday, 10:45 a.m.-noon
Where: West Charlotte Recreation Center, 2401 Kendall Drive

A bird’s eye-view

The Carolina Raptor Center is bringing its popular raptors program for seniors to community centers in several Culture Blocks areas. “We want as many people as possible to learn about raptors and to spark their curiosity,” said Michele Miller Houck, CRC associate executive director.

The program has been making the rounds at senior living and assisted living facilities and the sessions are usually packed, with upwards of 50-60 people, Houck said.

Attendees get a close-up view of birds they may hear or see in their own backyards on any given day or night, such as owls, vultures, ravens and falcons. Houck said the educators love to talk about the birds’ “superpowers,” such as why owls, who hunt at night, are considered “silent ninjas” or how turkey vultures can sniff out a meal miles away, but they also encourage people to tell their own stories.

“Everybody has a raptors story,” said Houck, and “seniors just have such great stories to tell. They really are engaged, involved and focused. And they ask tons of questions.”

Seniors also make great docents, she said. “We love it when they come and volunteer on site to speak with visitors on the trail,” said Houck, who jokingly calls herself CRC’s “chief wonder maker.” 

“The more humans that interact with visitors along the trail, the more wonder is created.”

Meet birds of prey: These birds are from your neighborhood, but you rarely get to see them nose to beak. Bring your curiosity and your sense of adventure.
When: Various dates; sessions begin at 10:30 a.m. or 10:45 a.m.
      •  Grier Heights Community Center, 3100 Leroy St.
      •  Southview Recreation Center, 1720 Vilma St.
      •  Belle Johnston Community Center, 1000 Johnston Drive
      •  West Charlotte Recreation Center, 2401 Kendall Drive

Other free Culture Blocks programs for seniors

• Dance Without Limits for Seniors by Order My Steps: This dance class is designed for seniors of varying mobility levels. Learn dances from around the world, use props, and create original choreographic works.

• Hands-on Clay presented by Clayworks (Seniors First Thursday): Artists teach different clay techniques to create pottery that will last a lifetime. Projects range from pitchers to mugs to wall hangings. Space is limited; pre-registration required.

• Jazzin’ & Bluzin’ with the Seniors presented by Dapper Street Productions: An hour of live jazz, blues and storytelling by the Dapper Street Jazz Band. Attendees are encouraged to cut a strut if the music moves ya.  Ages 55 and up.

• Check out the FULL calendar of Culture Blocks events around Mecklenburg County. Some activities have limited space and may require pre-registration.

Related story:  Charlotte residents find new passions for arts and culture with free events from ASC Culture Blocks

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