Dancing Her Way to Fitness!!

Jayawanthi Pannibaratha’s passion for Classical Sri Lankan dance forms blossomed under the guidance of her father, the renowned dancer, Dr. S. Pannibaratha. Over the years, Jayawanthi herself has come to be known as a dancer of repute, and has done much promote public appreciation of Sri Lankan dance. One such endeavor is a dance class for adults conducted at Kithu Sevana, on Bullers Road.

When Jayawanthi began the classes in 2014, the response was very encouraging, and she was inundated with requests to move the classes to the evenings to allow those were working to also attend. While her classes are not strictly for senior citizens, the routines are carried out at a pace that appeals to all age groups.

Dance is proven to be a fabulous way to keep fit. It improves muscle tone, flexibility, gait and balance. Keeping in time with the rhythm of the music is also great for maintaining and improving cognitive skills. What’s more, dancing is fun! It relaxes you and soothes the soul. So it is no wonder then that Jayawanthi’s students derive so much joy as they dance their way to good health.

One of Jayawanthi’s very first students is Shanthini who says she enjoys every bit of it. Deepani who is an accountant by profession makes sure she has no appointments lined up on Wednesday evenings so that she can make it to the class. This is her way of relieving stress. She has been attending the class since its inception, and loves every minute of it. She describes it as a super quality workout. Savithri, another of Jayawanthi’s students has only three words to describe her experience at the class -“I love it!”

The classes are conducted on Wednesday and Friday evenings between 5 and 6 p.m. On Wednesday evenings, Jayawanthi teaches her students Kandyan dancing which is accompanied by drums. On Fridays however, she introduces her students to different traditional dance forms, which include Oriental dances and Manipuri (which originates in India’s North Eastern highlands).

On an average Jayawanthi has about 30 students attending her class for which she charges a very nominal fee to cover her costs such as the rental of the hall. Jayawanthi’s motivation to run the class stems solely from her love for dance, the joy it gives her students, and the close friendships she has established with many of them. She says that over the years the ladies have come to really bond with each other. On the day The Senior Station covered the class, one of the students brought with her some treats to celebrate her birthday with Jayawanthi and the other students. It is this bonhomie that makes the class so special says Jayawanthi. Between her responsibilities to her husband, two children and the many other commitments she has undertaken, Jayawanthi manages a very busy schedule. Yet it is the encouragement of her students that prompts her to continue the dance class at Kithu Sevana.


Senior Station-logo

Dealing with Interfering Adults

My friend, Geetha constantly complains about how her mum and mother-in-law interfere with everything she does.  “They have an opinion for everything I do”, she says with a sigh.  “They are ready to criticize the way I bring up my children, or run my house or even sometimes the way I speak to my husband. I feel I am constantly being judged.” The frustration over not being allowed to figure things on our own has been expressed so many times across generations. So why is it that as people get older they forget that they were once young too – and perhaps went through this same ordeal?

Sometimes people want to ‘manage’ the lives of younger loved ones, to assert their authority, or maybe because they care. They’ve been through the grind and have seen the pitfalls, and want to protect them against likely mishaps. At other times, however, they interfere merely because they want to have their opinion heard. Geetha says more often than not, she ignores the constant comments and continues to do her own thing. But, ever so often, there are sharp and sarcastic remarks that fly pass her that really upset her. “We listened to our elders when we were young, but nowadays children think they know better”, is a very common jibe thrown her way.

It wasn’t very long ago when many aged parents lived together with their grown children and grandchildren. Elders’ seniority allowed them to prevail over most family matters whether they were right or wrong. However, over the years, things have changed rapidly. Today there is a growing need to assert oneself and make one’s own decisions. Today’s young adults have a lot more information at their disposal that they tend to rely on. As a result, young adults today are far less dependent upon their elders for guidance.  They prefer to make their mistakes and learn from them. They prefer to seek out the latest trends rather than follow ‘outdated’ information. This is something that Geetha’s elders and so many others do not understand. They can’t accept that Geetha would trust a computer over the first hand experience that they can offer her.

To better understand this conflict, we interviewed several senior citizens and researched online resources.  What we found was what the younger generation tended to brush off as stubbornness and interference was often an attempt to be heard and acknowledged. Geetha for example admits that she blocks out her elders out of exasperation and the fear that if she listens to them it might lead to never ending interference.

Perhaps if Geetha did accept at least some of the input provided by her elders, it might actually make them ease up a bit. This would make them feel more relevant and wanted – which is a greatly felt need for the elderly the world over. However, it is also recommended that we establish clear boundaries.  Older parents, in-laws and other seniors, who are advising their adult children, should be made to understand that the final decision on matters will be in the hands of the younger generation. At the same time, their advice would be respected and even welcomed.  The older generation has a treasure trove of information that could be of immense use to their younger counterparts.  For instance, often times, home remedies work better for minor ailments than the pharmaceuticals a doctor would usually prescribe.  For example, Geetha says her mum-in-law uses a bee’s honey and lime mixture for a cough. She tried it a couple of times and it does soothe an irritated throat.

Looking at it from the seniors point of view, they should understand that though they do have a lot to offer, they need to share advice without making it look like they are finding fault.  For instance they could rephrase their inputs as ‘during our time we did it like this – you could try this out if you like.’  The important thing for elders to remember is that their children are not children anymore. Sometimes, they need to back off and let them make their own decisions – and mistakes. At the same time, they need to keep themselves open for discussion so that when their children really want their advice they can easily turn to them. This way their children will value advice better and accept it without resentment.

Senior Station-logo

How about a game of bridge?

There is increasing research to prove that keeping one’s brain active and stimulated can keep it healthy and young and stave off mental decline and conditions such as Dementia. Healthcare providers now believe that social interaction together with challenging mental activities is very important for mental health in old age. So it is no wonder then that a game of Bridge, which provides the ideal combination of the two, is seen as a hugely beneficial activity for senior citizens. This complex card game is said to activate that part of the brain involved in memory, sequencing and visualizing. Moreover bridge is played in a foursome and this provides plenty of social interaction, especially since a single session typically lasts several hours.

In the years gone by, Bridge was a very popular table sport in Sri Lanka, and was widely played across the country. During those days, bridge clubs were commonly formed amongst friends, as well as by associations for various professionals such as lawyers, doctors etc. Today unfortunately it is kept alive by small groups of enthusiasts. One such enterprising individual is Rex Perera, the founder of The Vajira Bridge Centre, a club where one can both learn and play the game.

Rex Perera was a Civil and Structural Engineer who settled into quiet retirement in 2003. He had been always passionate about bridge and continued to play the game with friends and family after retirement. A close friend and fellow bridge aficionado was Wasantha Senanayake who was keen to revive the game especially within the armed forces. He encouraged Rex to formulate tutorials for the Kotelawala Defense Academy so that officers from the Army, Navy and Air Force could take up the game.  Rex embarked on the project, however unfortunately due to unavoidable reasons it fell through. Soon after though, word spread about Rex’ endeavors and he was approached by his niece and her friend to teach them the game. One thing led to the other and Rex’ bridge coaching efforts culminated with the launch of the Vajira Bridge Centre.

The Vajira Bridge Centre is affiliated to Bridge Federation of Sri Lanka. The main aim of the Centre is to provide a space for both beginners and serious players to play. Every Tuesday amateurs tournaments are held at the club, and on Sundays the professionals have their tournaments. On other week days Rex teaches beginners how to play the game. “It’s a myth that bridge is difficult,” says Rex encouragingly. “Bridge is actually very simple to learn. It takes a lot of practice to master though. Every game poses new challenges, which is why players get so absorbed in the game. This is a game that appeals to players across ages and my club has members who are young adults as well retired professionals.  These days with computers and the internet, people look to gadgets to provide them with easy entertainment. Perhaps this is why games like bridge, which were very popular in Sri Lanka, are losing ground. However, there are a great many benefits to the game and, if you ask any bridge player they will tell you that it can also be a whole lot of fun. Once you start playing bridge it is very easy to get hooked on it. In fact I have been contacted by Sri Lankan expats, as well as people from other countries, who want to play bridge even whilst they are on holiday here. The local members are also very committed players. I would however like to see many more Sri Lankans taking up this amazing game. We will be happy to help interested players to learn the various aspects of the game and will find partners for them as well.”

The Vajira Bridge Centre is located at No 141 Vajira Road Colombo 5, and the centre’s website is http://www.bridgewebs.com/vajira/

Mr. Rex Perera’s mobile number is 0777514189 and his email address is rexperera@hotmail.com

Senior Station-logo