- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 17, 2001

Seniors strutted their stuff on a makeshift dance floor at the D.C. Armory yesterday during a city-sponsored celebration to mark the 37th annual Senior Citizens Day.
The Armory was decked out with balloons, 300 banquet tables and a platform where a live band played dance music throughout the three-hour event. Seniors heard speeches from the mayor, the Districts congressional delegate and the D.C. Council chairman. But none of the speakers energized the audience as much as the bands rendition of the "Electric Slide."
"I thoroughly enjoyed myself," said Frances H. Jones of Northeast, one of about 200 who streamed toward the dance floor when the music started. "Even though Im 75, I still like to slide," she said.
The program included a demonstration of the art of Tai Chi, a number by 84-year-old dancer Anjela Salas, and musical performances by the mayors mother, former opera singer Virginia Hayes Williams, and Ms. Senior D.C., Jaquetta Patrick.
Hundreds of volunteers assisted the 3,000 seniors, people over age 60, who for the most part came in buses from area special-needs facilities. The volunteers served hot meals of chicken and mashed potatoes.
"You are important to us in this city," Mayor Anthony A. Williams said. "You have been part of the events that have shaped our culture, shaped our city, and shaped our community."
The mayor touted his administrations delivery of 1 million meals to 8,000 elderly residents and pledged that he would continue to fully fund the D.C. Office on Aging. He also promised to build a wellness center in each of the citys eight wards. He shook hundreds of hands, posed for pictures and was even seen on the floor dancing the electric slide.
D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Democrat, used her remarks to weigh in on the future of Social Security.
"They are trying to mess with you in the Congress of the United States and we are not going to let that happen to our seniors, who have paid their dues over and over again," she said. Her remarks drew scattered applause, likely because she spoke while lunch was being served.
The event was part of a nationwide celebration of Older Americans Month, which has the theme "The Many Faces of Aging." One of the focuses was elderly caregivers, who often care for a family member or friend out of love and dont recognize the role they play or the risks to their own health.
E. Veronica Pace, executive director of the D.C. Office of Aging, said there was more to the event than just a free lunch. Booths featuring vendors representing city and private-sector services for seniors ringed the Armory, volunteer groups recruited seniors to help them, and even the dancing was designed to encourage people to get some exercise.
"Everything we do is done with a dual purpose," she said. "People follow health advice when it is fun to do so, not just good for you."
From the size of the crowd on the dance floor, it looked as if the seniors were following Mrs. Paces advice.


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