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Get into the Social Whirl

Stewart F. House / Special Contributor

Get into the social whirl: Newly single seniors find diversions that forge new bonds

KATHLEEN GREEN The Dallas Morning News Special Contributor
Published: 12 November 2012 04:36 PM

Senior Living 2012: Resources for seniors in North Texas
These single folks may be old enough to be AARP members, but they’re not sitting at home watching the paint peel.

Some of these seniors have found themselves alone and with unexpected free time due to an empty nest, divorce or a spouse’s death, but whatever the reason, these 55- to 65-year-olds have more opportunities to socialize and stay active than hours in the day. There’s dancing, open-mike nights, musical productions, book clubs, travel groups, volunteer work, investment clubs and more.

By day, Nancy Barr is a legal secretary for the law firm Littler Mendelson in downtown Dallas. At night, she kicks up her heels in a way she never expected: square dancing.

“I would have never in one million years thought I’d enjoy square dancing,” says Barr, 55, of Lake Highlands, who is divorced. “I’m a rock-and-roller type of girl.”

But after Nancy’s friend persuaded her to go on a cruise with some square dance friends in 2009, she loved the group so much that she signed up for dance lessons. Now Nancy is part of the Rebel Rousers with the North Texas Square and Round Dance Association. Nancy gets great exercise and has made a ton of new friends.

“If single guys are looking for a way to meet single women, square dancing is where they should be,” she says. “There are numerous couples who have met through square dancing.”

Jerri Locke, director of the Senior Access Program at Methodist Health System, has seen firsthand how such gatherings and programs for seniors can lead to newfound happiness.

They may first start out in a grief support group after losing a spouse, she says. With time, people forge new bonds through fitness classes, language courses or social events at either of Methodist’s two campuses.

When Locke put together a recent semiformal dance, she was afraid no one would come, but about 300 people showed up.

“It was supposed to be over at 8 or 9. I finally did like at a club and I turned out all the lights and said, ‘This is the last dance. Y’all have got to go home.’”

Those Methodist programs have been a lifesaver for Pleasant Grove resident Roena MacKey, who got more involved after health issues forced her to retire as a warrant confirmation supervisor for the city of Dallas.

“There’s no reason for anyone to sit at home and say, ‘I don’t have anything to do.’ I need to keep busy as much as possible in order to keep my brain running, or otherwise it might collapse on me at any minute,” says MacKey, who is divorced and has five grown children and three grandchildren.

At first, she attended health and education seminars, but now she looks forward to open-mike night at Charlton Methodist.

“You’d be amazed with the people you meet in our age group and how talented we are,” says MacKey, 58. “Since I’ve become this beautiful age and with some limitations, I was looking to find me something to do and to help me to socialize with more people. I sure have made a lot of friends.”

Elexis Rice, a motivational, inspirational and educational speaker, taps into numerous groups around town for her social life.

“There’s a ton of stuff to do in this city that’s age appropriate,” says Rice, 57, of Addison. “I’ll pop in and out of various things,” which have included groups (a website where you can find local groups), an investment club, the blues music scene and dance lessons.

“Dancing is a great way to meet people because you rotate,” she says. “You dance with like 50 different people in the course of the night, even if it’s two minutes or one song.”

Rice — who recently co-wrote Life and Love Extraordinaire: Tales of How People Met Their Soul Mates, including 45 couples she introduced to each other — often coaches her clients on how to get out there and meet potential soul mates.

“Once people get married, have their kids and they’re grown, then they never get their mojo back. So then they just go into hiding,” she says.

For awhile now, Fred Musacchio, 62, has immersed himself in two things he’s always loved: musicals and police work. Musacchio, a retired family lawyer, wanted to be a police officer in his youth but was turned away because of his eyesight. Now he volunteers with the Duncanville Police Department.

Musacchio, who is divorced, also often spends time at the Hopkins Senior Center in Duncanville where he just wrapped a musical production of Virgil’s Wedding. Being in a musical is not such a stretch for Musacchio, who performed in them in high school. His love for guitar has landed him in Billy’s Buckaroos, a group of friends at the senior center who share music together.
“I’ve met a lot of people that I really enjoy conversing with,” Musacchio says.
“Loneliness is a choice,” says Rice. “There are plenty of opportunities here.”

Kathleen Green is a Plano freelance writer.

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