30-minutes at Bridle Brook turns out to be so much more


Kristina Robinson has mastered the ability to multi-task.

Through her teachings, the Mahomet resident is able to reach two distinct groups of people simultaneously.

For all appearances, she devoted 30 minutes Tuesday morning to leading a sitting Zumba class at The Waterford at Bridle Brook.

In reality, it was so much more.

More than a dozen residents were in their chairs, following her movements, trying to emulate her actions and enjoying the variety of songs.

At one end of the room, six young children were perched on chairs, some hopping up spontaneously to start dancing to tunes they recognized; others making animated motions from their seats.

Robinson, who leads with a constant smile on her face, makes connections with both groups.

The two-way interactions resulted in a double win-win.

”We don’t see little kids very often,” resident Alyce Grabe said. “We love to see the kids sing and dance. And they are so friendly.”

Bringing small groups of children to Bridle Brook is something Robinson has done for most of the four years she has served as a Zumba instructor at the facility.

The children, who are involved with her Dandelion Farm Hands summer work camp, are interactive from the time they reach the Bridle Brook workout room. Some see familiar residents and give hugs.

Robinson works with the youngsters in advance of the trip, but her focus is not on music or the moves.

She lets them know they have a job to do. But her points emphasize empathy, compassion and kindness to others.

“Flash a smile, shake a hand, ask someone about their day,” is the advice she gives.

She discusses what the students should expect.

“As you get older, your ears can get tired,” Robinson explained. “In order to be heard, you must use a strong voice. It helps to get closer and make sure the person you are talking to can see your face.

“As you get older, sometimes your eyes get tired and that makes it hard to see.

“As you get older, sometimes your legs get tired so it makes it harder to walk. We always have to use walking feet inside at Bridle Brook because if we bump into someone with tired legs we could cause them to fall and get hurt.

“As you get older, sometimes your mind gets tired. It may make it harder for someone to remember your name or stay awake for our class. It may make it hard for people to remember where they are or why they are here. It does not help to embarrass them about it. We patiently repeat ourselves with our strong voice. We don’t let that empty our buckets, because we know a tired mind can forget.”

The message is clear to the students in attendance.

“I try to be happy,” second-grader Bristol Pride said, “and try to make them happy.”

According to third-grader Audra Martin, the joy goes both ways.

“I like seeing people smile and making people’s day,” Martin said.

Resident Jackie Burch said the mission was accomplished.

“It’s soothing to the soul to have young people around,” Burch said. “These kids are great.”

Robinson offers encouragement to the residents.

“If you’re moving, you’re doing it,” she said.

Jenna Manolakes, the activities director at Bridle Brook, said the weekly visits are popular with the residents.

“They love it,” Manolakes said. “Their eyes light up, especially with the extra energy the kids bring.

“They comment how much energy they have. They’d forgotten.”

Manolakes believes the weekly visits are helpful for the youngsters, too.

“It gets the kids so they’re not so timid around older people,” Manolakes said.

As important as it is for the senior citizens to be active and moving their limbs, Robinson said what they receive from the visitors is also critical.

“The most valuable thing is by being here and being themselves, they are able to make people smile,” Robinson said. “We are here for a purpose, and it’s not for ourselves.”

Robinson recognizes the impact and shares her views with the children.

“The residents may not remember your name or what you like to spend your time doing, but they do remember how you make them feel and that is happy,” she said. “On your worst day, you can fill a bucket at Bridle Brook by simply showing up.

“When the residents have a chance to be around young people, it reminds them what it felt like to be young. It gives them energy and makes them happier.”

Burch offers confirmation.

“It’s a real high point of the week,” she said.

That is the only reward that freshman Jamey Slade needs.

“They look like they’re having fun,” Slade said. “It’s fun. I get to see a lot of people and it reminds me of when I was younger and would see my grandma.

“I 100-percent look forward to this.”

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