“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

That timeless insight from playwright George Bernard Shaw helps explain the rising popularity of a free program that will be held at the River Forest Community Center on Thursday, May 25: “Movement and Memory for Joyful Aging.”

Led by Gloria Araya, the one-hour class is not limited to River Forest residents and begins at 1 p.m. in Room 206 of the Community Center, 8020 Madison St. It is one of the final events, in a series of them throughout Oak Park, River Forest and Forest Park, for Celebrating Seniors Week.

Employing a cardio-dance style known as “ayun dance” that engages the mind and body, Araya helps participants get invigorated mentally and physically. A native of Chile, Araya has traveled the world sharing her unique style of dance movement that emphasizes maintaining a nurturing inner life while promoting an active lifestyle.

“Movement and Memory for Joyful Aging” is sponsored by River Forest Township. It builds on evidence-based research showing that daily movement, for both the body and the brain, is a key to resilient aging.

Although it is open to anyone, the class is especially for older adults “to enjoy movement and wonderful music that their generation will appreciate,” said River Forest Township Supervisor Carla Sloan.

Ayun dance incorporates the vibrant rhythms of World music and various dance genres like Afro-Brazilian, Latin and Swing. It also plays with simple dance patterns and rhythms structured to strengthen the cardiovascular system, to improve memorization, and to promote body awareness.

A teacher throughout the world for more than 30 years, Araya has taught regularly at area venues since 2006, including the East Bank Club in Chicago and the Euclid Avenue United Methodist Church in Oak Park. Along the way, she has built a devoted following that includes Cathaleen Roach of River Forest, who called Araya’s classes “pure joy.”

“I always leave class with a more joyful appreciation for the day ahead and my own well-being,” said Roach. “Gloria is indescribably inspiring, encouraging and a truly radiant spirit.”

Araya encouraged individuals across the spectrum of physical abilities to attend. They will be encouraged “to move at their own best pace, however quickly or slowly they wish to move,” she said.

“This isn’t a competition,” Araya added. “This is for men and women at all levels of ability to enjoy moving to great music and experiencing the joy and invigoration that comes with engaging the mind and the body.”

If there is enough interest in this introductory class, River Forest Township will explore the possibility of an expanded series, said Sloan.

“Our goal is that great music, a nurturing environment, and the simple joy of moving–which is not ‘exercise’ per se, but just joyful moving – will inspire and delight our attendees,” said Sloan. “We are excited to bring this new programming to all of our local friends.”

In addition to providing financial support to seniors in need — more than $70,000 has been raised since the group’s inception — Celebrating Seniors has three other objectives: to facilitate cooperation between the business community, government agencies and non-profit organizations for the benefit of the senior population; to promote senior groups and organizations that serve persons 60 and older; and to raise public awareness of issues affecting seniors.

Celebrating Seniors is online at www.CelebratingSeniors.net; on Facebook at www.facebook.com/CelebratingSeniors; on Twitter at www.twitter.com/CelebratingSrs; and by phone at 708-386-3100.

To learn more about programs or services provided by River Forest Township, please call 708-366-2029 or visit www.RiverForestTownship.org; www.facebook.com/RiverForestTownship; or www.twitter.com/RFTownship.

Matt Baron is a public relations consultant for RF Township government.

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