There are many stereotypes for elderly people, many of which are not flattering. Two common examples are that they are lazy and that they are bad at technology. What is funny about that is that there are plenty of young people who are lazy and bad at technology too. It doesn't seem to be an elderly issue.
What also doesn't appear to be an elderly issue is the current Coronavirus pandemic sweeping the globe. Many businesses are being forced to pivot to online meetings and classes to stay afloat while social distancing is in effect. Let's face it, not everyone is prepared for a digital life, especially not the elderly.
Most of the country is struggling to adapt to a Zoom-inspired world, where video meetings and classes are being held. That is why it is so surprising and awesome that Anna Marie Leo, an 89 year old dance instructor, is still teaching her classes via zoom. She won't let a virus stop her!
There are difficulties inherent to pivoting your business, and those challenges multiply when you factor in technology. That isn't stopping Anna Marie Leo. She is a lifelong dancer and now dance instructor. She was born in 1930, making her 89 years old, and she began dancing when she was just four years old. By the time she was 21, Anna Marie Leo started a dance studio in Wilmington with her husband: She aptly named it Anna Marie Dance Studio. It has been in business for 69 years.
Anna Marie told TODAY, "I got that year maybe 75 students where lessons were a dollar and a half a week. Think about that! A dance lesson for $1.50. My rent for that building was maybe $600 a month. Boy, would I like to be paying that now!"
Anna Marie no longer owns the studio ever since selling it to her niece, but she still teaches there. That all came to a halt when the coronavirus pandemic forced them to shut their doors. Luckily Anna Marie Leo is no stranger to being resilient. She lost her daughter and husband, and has even overcome her studio burning down in 1982. She got her grandson to help her learn how to livestream. "I go online and I can see the children dancing and they can see and hear me."
"But it's working. I hope it continues to work. Sometimes you have to get creative, but for me and my students this gives us something to look forward to. So of course I hope we don't have to do this too much longer, but if we do, we keep doing this."
The classes have been a hit with parents. One child, Annie Rosenthal, has been a student with Anna Marie for six years. It may not be the same as being in the studio, but the students are making it work. Rosenthal's mom said, "I love that it's added some normalcy to my kids' lives. They are able to partake in things that they like. It also keeps them on a schedule, which is really important for them. It helps them be able to "see" other people and interact with them. It enables them to have exercise. So it's been extremely valuable."
Anna Marie Leo is hoping that she can help inspire others during this tough time. "There's always a solution. When you think, 'Oh my gosh, how am I going to make this happen?' Look for a solution. You can find it. There's always a way. If it doesn't work with plan A, go to plan B. Stay positive and know that we are all going to get through this together. And what I'd like to see when we all get over it, is that the camaraderie stays."