How tap dancing helped this SoCal senior find connection, fight loneliness

Denise Dador Image
Friday, June 14, 2024
SoCal senior shares how tap dancing helped fight loneliness
When Patty Stine retired, she felt liberated but lonely. That's when she discovered tap dancing, and it changed her life forever.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Patty Stine's love for tap dancing began when she retired. Her neighbor invited her to a class. Until then, the 77-year-old Duarte resident had never owned a pair of tap shoes.

"I was wearing sandals, but then all the girls got me up to dance. And I never left," she said.

Now she dances daily and enjoys time with her friends. But it wasn't always like that. Transitioning from work to retirement was liberating, yet Stine felt lonely.

"It's just a mental state that people can't get out of or they get stuck," she said.

"If you don't stay active, and you're not continuing to learn new things to meet new friends, then that's a real problem," said Annie Laskey, the director of special events at the Pasadena Senior Center.

The center is a lifeline to thousands of San Gabriel Valley seniors with the mission of combating loneliness. Health officials compare the health impact of being socially disconnected to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.

"If you're just sitting on the couch, you become less active. Less able to stand up and sit down and less able to help yourself," Laskey said.

She sees how prolonged social isolation can lead to depression and anxiety. But even with all her outreach, not every senior wants to engage. She believes the key is figuring out what gives them meaning and inspiration.

"Without that motivation, as you get older, it gets harder to get somewhere. You need to provide something that people want to be a part of," Laskey said.

"It's up to us, you know, what we want to do?" Stine said.

She said putting yourself out there can feel risky. But for her, the reward was finding new friends who love doing what she loves.

"Sometimes loneliness can be a choice. You can just stay stuck in your old habits. Sometimes you have to come out. And that's what I did after I retired," Stine said.

MORE: Loneliness and social isolation - What to know and how to help

Experts say the impact of loneliness can be felt in a variety of ways, but it can all be helped with one thing: establishing meaningful relationships.