The Merion’s Senior Wildcat Dance will perform at an upcoming basketball game at Northwestern University.

Dance fever is contagious. Despite popular narratives, everyone is susceptible to it. Even octogenarians such as Leigh Bailey and 17 fellow residents of The Merion senior living community in Evanston, IL.

They soon will be able to showcase their moves in front of a large audience, when the Northwestern University men’s basketball team takes on the University of Michigan on Feb. 2 at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston as the team looks to enter a dance of its own: the NCAA tournament. 

“We’re all old enough to be their grandmothers and great-grandmothers,” said Bailey, 83, a second-year dancer. “I look forward to seeing my husband’s and children’s expressions as they enjoy our performance.”

The Merion cheerleaders’ ages range from the 70s to 89. The group spent the past few weeks rehearsing with the Northwestern cheerleaders and The Merion fitness instructors before taking to the court. 

Aside from the social benefits, there are many health benefits of dancing later in life, including improving balance and flexibility, strengthening muscles and reducing stress. Involvement in group dancing like the Merion’s Senior Wildcat Dance team also can boost the mental and emotional well-being of older adults.

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