Seniors vie to save last dance

It’s a Wednesday night and 70-year-old Glenn Havens has two beautiful ladies in heels and ball gowns swaying in his arms to the music of the Waldo Carter Orchestra.

When the song ends, the plaid-shirted Havens escorts the two back to their seats and shakes his head.

“It’d be a real shame if they ended this,” he says.

But end it they may. The senior dances, which San Mateo Park and Recreation Department has hosted at its Senior Center twice a month for more than 20 years, are on the verge of being axed by the cash-strapped city.

Though the senior dance program was once able to sustain itself with the $5 admission price — for which attendees receive refreshments as well as 2½ hours of a live band — the attendance has dropped throughout the years, said Paul Council, the city’s recreation division manager.

This year, the dances have averaged 21 attendees, which is less than half of what Council says would allow the program to sustain itself. As a result, the city has been subsidizing the program about $2,500 a year, he said.

With the city’s current budget crunch, he said, the department must put its resources where they’re most valued — and that doesn’t appear to be the senior dances.

Council said the decision whether to ax the problem will be made by staff in the next few weeks.

“We think it’s reached the end of its life cycle as an activity,” he said.

But the seniors who attend certainly don’t agree.

Havens, a Portola Valley resident and a dance regular blamed the city for “really not trying” to get more people to attend.

Council said a brief marketing push in March did result in “some success” bringing the attendance in the following dances as high as 39 — but still short of the 44 attendees needed to break even.

But 62-year-old San Mateo resident and dancer Agnes Hon said there must be other ways to make the dances work. She said she’d be willing to pay a few more dollars to keep the program going.

Hon said a couple other Peninsula cities host regular senior dances, but she worried older dancers — like her dance partner Jack Lewis, who coyly gave his age as “over 70” — might feel uncomfortable driving far at night.

“I just wish we could figure out how to get a few more people here,” Lewis said.

kworth@sfexaminer.com

artsDanceLocal

Just Posted

San Francisco health experts recommend that pregnant women should receive the COVID-19 vaccine, as well as a booster shot. (Unai Huizi/Shutterstock)
What pregnant women need to know about COVID and booster shots

Questions regarding COVID-19 booster shots for pregnant people have been pouring in… Continue reading

Examiner reporter Ben Schneider drives an Arcimoto Fun Utility Vehicle along Beach Street in Fisherman’s Wharf on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Could San Francisco’s tiny tourist cruisers become the cars of the future?

‘Fun Utility Vehicles’ have arrived in The City

Badly needed rain cooled off pedestrians on Market Street in The City on Wednesday. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
Storm door opens in San Francisco — what will the rains bring?

‘Come Monday, fire season in Northern California should be done’

The so-called “twindemic” that public health officials in California and elsewhere warned about last year — the combined threat of influenza and COVID-19 — was largely eased by the wide use of face masks, physical distancing and reduced travel, experts say. But their concerns are back this year. (Shutterstock)
COVID and the flu: Is a ‘twindemic’ threat lurking again?

‘Because of so little disease last year, population immunity is likely lower’

49ers' quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hopes to return to the field this weekend to lead San Francisco against the Colts. (Photo courtesy of 49ers)
NFL Week 7 picks: Niners face crucial matchup against the Colts

San Francisco could join Seattle on the brink of irrelevancy in the NFC West with another loss

Most Read