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Senior talent on display


From behind a sparkling silver curtain June 30 emerged Eileen Grant in a red jacket and black fedora, her left hand gloved in silver, dancing and swinging her hips to Michael Jackson’s “Bad,” while fellow residents of the Emeritus at Deep Run retirement home and community members laughed and clapped.

Grant and other residents, volunteers and community members were participating in the first national Bring Your Talent contest, hosted by Emeritus Senior Living and part of elder care expert Dr. Marion Somers' tour with the 3in4 Association, a non-profit organization working to increase awareness about the planning for long-term care. The 50 city tour will end July 25 in Phoenix, A.Z. and the contest winner will be chosen from all the video submissions and taped tour stops by Aug. 13. The winner could receive a year of free rent or one of 11 week-long stays at an Emeritus community.

Grant was born in 1928 in Brooklyn, N.Y. as Eileen O'Connor, the third-oldest of 10 children in an Irish family. During World War II she traveled with other dancers and comedians and pros such as Mel Brooks and Eddie Fisher entertaining the troops.

“I loved it. I was doing it from the time I was this high," Grant said, lowering her hand toward the floor. "If you’re a performer, you’re born a performer.”

Grant’s daughter, Shelley Damion, who attended the show last week but sat on the side so as to not to be a distraction, said she hoped her mother would win.

“She’s always been the most entertaining, even at parties,” Damion said. “She choreographed my high school production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie.’ I think it was the best one we had ... I wasn’t in it.”

Every Friday, Grant, who is a memory care patient, practices ballroom dancing with instructor Phyllis Harris, who helped co-choreograph her dance.

“It’s really exciting to see them come out of their shells,” Harris said. “It’s hard to watch them get older. . . She comes down when she feels like it.”

Harris was supposed to perform with Grant the day of the show, but because other entries dropped out, Grant had to perform before Harris had arrived. Filling in for Harris was Nick Nevi, the life enrichment assistant at Emeritus, and one of Grant’s biggest fans.

“She’s got spunk,” he said the day before the contest. “She’s very talented. She’s my hopeful. I know she could really knock the house down. . . She deserves one year rent free.”

Nevi said he hoped that if she didn’t win, that one of the other Deep Run residents would.

“When our residents do what they love it, rejuvenates them,” he said. “I really admire our residents for doing this.”

The Thursday before the contest, Harris and Nevi made a video music video of Grant’s performance in case she got nervous the day of or resisted because of her memory.

Private duty caregiver Demetra White said she had seen the end of the videotaping.

“When I saw her get up and these moves, she seemed so much younger, “ White said. “My mouth was just open. If she doesn’t win, I’ll be surprised.”

During the practice, Grant pulled White onto the dance floor despite White’s protests. By then, Grant had kicked off her shoes and was dancing barefoot with free-style moves, something White said Grant usually did.

Old photos of Grant dancing and acting in the 1940s lined the walls of the dining room, where the stage was set for the performance on Saturday. In one or two, Grant’s bare feet could be seen. Grant said she had learned to dance after attending dances with soldiers on Governors Island, where her older sister had a job.

“It was the kind of music where we’d go dancing and the gentleman would swing me over his head, around his back and between his legs,” she said. “I was young and had a wonderful time. . . It’s been a lot of years, but I had a wonderful life. I loved the life I lived. Isn’t that a song?”

In her opening speech Saturday, Somers introduced herself as a girl from a rough neighborhood in East Harlem, N.Y., who grew up in a five-story walk-up filled with seniors. Somers said that there was always something to learn from her elders, especially how to live.

“You don’t get to be 80, 90, or 100 years old without knowing how to live,” she said.

On a trip to China, Somers met a 104-year-old woman who she asked to share with her one thing she’d learned. The woman responded, “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

“I asked the interpreter what she meant,” Somers said. “What she meant was, your husbands and kids are going to do what they’re going to do, just do what you can do.”

Having a balanced and steady approach to addressing long-term care is key, as it is to addressing life, she said.

“I like to say that I have been blessed living with seniors,” Somers said. “I live a very blessed life because I’ve learned not to get obsessed about the nonsense stuff, and when you think about it, most of it is nonsense.”

Somers went on to emphasize that everyone is a caregiver at some time in his or her life, whether it is for a little sister or for parents.

“Three in four Americans will need long-term care at sometime in their lives, and we are not ready,” Somers said.

Sixteen percent of caregivers die before those for whom they are caring, she said, emphasizing the importance of being organized during the caregiving process. She went through an A-Z list of quick things for care givers to remember; among them: “Trust the elder you’re caring for, and trust your basic caregiving instincts,” and “Understand that being a caregiver requires patience.”

“Talking about elderly care is not a sexy subject, so to remind people is necessary,” she said. “Nobody wants to talk about aging or maybe being infirm. It’s always over there, another person, but that other person could be you.”
Community

Glen Allen student to perform at Carnegie Hall

Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.

At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.

Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.

Gayton Baptist Church dedicates new outreach center


The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.

Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.

Henricus Historical Park to host Publick Day Sept. 20

Henricus Historical Park will commemorate its anniversary during Publick Day, a signature annual event that celebrates the establishment of the second successful English settlement in the New World. In September 1611, Sir Thomas Dale, along with soldiers, tradesmen and farmers, ventured from Jamestown to create the Citie of Henricus. Leaders of Henricus developed the first English hospital, chartered the first college in North America, established tobacco as the first cash crop in Virginia, and created a place where Pocahontas lived and met John Rolfe.

Publick Day will take place Saturday, Sept. 20, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free and parking is $5 per vehicle. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Extras sought for AMC’s ‘TURN’

Paid extras are being sought to appear in the AMC television series TURN: Washington's Spies, which will begin filming its second season in the Richmond area at the end of September and continue through February.

No experience is required, but producers say that extras must have flexible availability, reliable transportation and a positive attitude.

Arvold Casting is holding an open call on Sunday, Sept. 21 and is seeking men, women and children who are Caucasian, African American and Native American, with thin to average builds and who can realistically portray people living in Revolutionary War times. Long hair is a plus but not a must. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


TGIF! Celebrate the weekend at Oak Hall Baptist Church’s Community Block Party on Saturday. Learn more about ballroom dancing, art and Colonial times. Or take the kids to Generation Z Games for water play or Southern Season to cook up a Disney-theme meal. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


Check out these three B’s in Henrico this weekend: books, bluegrass and “Born Yesterday.” Other activities to participate in – and feel good about – are the 15th annual James River Regional Cleanup and the 5th annual Richmond Out of the Darkness Community Walk. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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