Flowing In My Fifties: Hooping At Every Age!
Hooping in your fifties? Absolutely, but apparently I’m “old”. I just found out! One morning, like so many other hoopers, I was routinely scanning my Facebook feed for all things hooping. That’s when I happened upon a post that made my not-so-wrinkled jaw drop: “Fact or Fiction – Older People Can’t Hoop.” Older people. Like the over-70 senior citizens I teach, at the YMCA, right? I was writing my “Of Course Older People Can Hoop” response before I even finished reading. That’s when I suddenly noticed that the post defined an “older” hooper as (gasp!) age 50.
I am a 59-year-young hooper. I discovered hooping at the tender age of 51 after seeing a beautiful hoop dance performance in January 2010 at the Third Coast Tribal dance workshop in Fort Worth, Texas, USA. And I was soon hooked on this wonderful form of exercise and self-expression. And yeah, I know that most of my hooping contemporaries are younger than me, but I had never, ever considered myself to be an “older” hooper. You’d think I was expected to be hooping on my death bed. We’ll see. I may well be. But we’re not there yet. Um, not even close.
Listen Up Young Hoopers
Listen Up. Lean in, young hoopers, and listen to you wise “elder”. The hoop is the perfect equalizer. It does not recognize age, size, gender, race or any of the classifications that sometimes serve to divide us. A passion for spinning is simply all that the hoop requires. I have found the hooping community to be as welcoming and accepting as my hoop. Although I am often among the oldest hoopers at a workshop or gathering, I always feel like a welcome, useful part of the group. The encouragement and kindness that hoopers provide to each other in critiques, teaching, making tutorials and organizing events is inspiring. At a recent workshop, a fellow hooper complimented my style as a “smooth groove”. While I don’t yet have the pleasure of being a grandmother, I am giving serious thought to requiring my grandkids to call me “Smooth Groove!”
Tips For Us “Older” Hoopers
For those of us “ancients” who started exercising in belted leotards and leg warmers, the “no pain no gain” mantra of the Seventies and Eighties is over. Just so you know. Hooping at any age is an ideal form of cardio-vascular exercise with no stress on joints. The only pain I have experienced is a few unavoidable whacks while trying to master a new trick. But I must confess that struggling to master every new trick can also be painful to the ego. Sure, when watching much younger hoopers I sometimes think that my learning curve is akin to “dog years”. That happens. Some seem to accomplish in one year what may well have taken me seven. No matter — the joy of mastering a new trick is the same at any age.
Why “Older” People Should Start Hooping Now
You already know it’s easy on the joints. But the hula hoop has much, much more to attract the aging hooper. Hooping improves balance and coordination – two important skills that can diminish with age. And the light weight-bearing use of a hoop can help fortify bone density. Hooping is also known for the emotional benefits it provides – a sense of meditation and mastery, stress relief and a feeling of well-being. Getting involved with your local hooping community promises a new set of friends, an essential component of emotional and physical health for all of us.
So, can “older” people hoop? Um, yeah. Older people ARE hooping. Where have YOU been? We are your parents, your grandparents, your neighbors, your co-workers. We’re more likely to give that hoop a whirl than anybody your age. Because why not? It’s all an adventure now that we’re dying right? I’m kidding, of course. Seriously, hand me that hoop. I ain’t scared.
Are you Reading This, Hoop Instructors?
Instructors and workshop organizers should not ignore this growing demographic. We “old folk” often have more free time and disposable income. Our children are older and less dependent. We are more established in our careers or perhaps even retired. Low-impact fitness is important to us after years of running or high-impact aerobics. We are looking for a new fun challenge and we crave community!
Although it may be a tired cliche, life truly is a journey full of twists, turns and spins. Who knew that some tape-covered tubing could lead to such an unexpected and amazing new path in my life? But it did! I’ll see you young-uns in the circle. You’ll know me when you see me. I’ll be the one having the most fun.
Laurel Fleming Richie has been a hoop instructor in Shreveport, Louisiana since 2010 and enjoys teaching students of every age. She is also director of Shreveport Hoop Group, a hoop performance troupe.