There’s a party going on right here

by | Jun 13, 2014 | Other News

The scene outside the large group exercise room in the Simon Family JCC’s gym on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 am is quiet and generally serene. Members of all ages are concentrating on their weightlifting sets and getting heart healthy on the various cardiovascular machines.

Inside Group Exercise Room 1, though, there’s a party going on.

The music’s lively, the energy is high and a regular group of between 25 and 30 (mostly) senior citizens are working out with smiles on their faces, a bounce in their steps, and a professed devotion to their Zumba Gold class and their regular instructor, Sharon Giannelli.

“This class is the most fun ever,” says Angie Aresco, 62, who’s been taking Zumba Gold since joining the JCC in February.

“What’s really great is that no one’s any better than anyone else, and we all just love it.”

Zumba classes have become increasingly popular since they first were introduced in the United States over a decade ago. A combination of dance, aerobic and strength moves are demonstrated or called out by an instructor, and the class follows along as best it can. The music is upbeat and rhythmic and when paired with an experienced instructor and enthusiastic classmates, it’s nearly impossible to stay still for any of the 45-minute class.

At a recent Tuesday class at the JCC, Giannelli played Latin and African themed music over the speakers –and even a country song—and directed the 25 seniors in the room to grapevine, merengue, flick kick, and salsa.

“This is the most highly spirited class I’ve ever taken, anywhere,” says Libby Predmore, a class member whose trim body is a testament for continuing to work out, no matter what birthday is coming up next. “Sharon is a miracle who works magic, and we just leave here feeling so upbeat, and so positive.”

In the front row of exercisers, Dorothy Zimmerman, a petite, spritely, and energetic senior, puts her all into the movements and glistens—and grins—as she dances.

“I’m on the JCC board and I started because I heard Sharon come talk to us about the class at a meeting,” says Zimmerman. “That was a year ago and I’ve been coming ever since—and never want to miss it.

“We have people in this class who have lost weight, who have reduced their cholesterol, and who have made friends because they’re in this healthy, social setting.”

Women make up the majority of the class, but there are a handful of men who are also regulars. Joe Goldberg, 80, doesn’t skip a beat while following Giannelli ’s instructions.

“I come every Tuesday and Thursday,” Goldberg says, “after I’ve taken two Silver Sneakers earlier in the morning.

“It keeps me young,” Goldberg says, smiling.

While Giannelli gets credit from her students for being such a motivational instructor, she says it’s the class that deserves to be admired by others.

“If you want to see what active seniors can look and feel like, then this is just the best place to see it,” says Giannelli, director of group exercise at the JCC.

“The members who come keep me on my toes, they inspire me, and they’re encouraging and supportive of each other.”

To find out more about Zumba Gold and other group classes at the JCC, appropriate for seniors or exercisers of all ages, visit The Simon Family JCC is also a participant in the Silver Sneakers program for senior citizens. For more information, visit

Article and photos by Laine Mednick Rutherford