Dancing and football keep these grannies healthy
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Grannies in Limpopo are causing a storm in their villages as they prove one is never too old to dribble a ball and dance old age away.
Twice a week more than 50 elderly women and a handful of man from the rural Ha-Mabila village in Mutale and surrounding villages outside Sibasa gather at a local sports ground to play football and perform traditional dances.
One of them is 50-year-old Violet Sirwali.
According to the Sirwali, the group’s coach, coordinator and grandmother of three, football is merged with dancing to create a fun atmosphere and keep the grannies and fit and healthy.
“We believe that the only thing which can play a huge role in helping our grannies to live longer is exercise. Hence we decided to encourage them to participate in the traditional dances and play football as a form of exercise,” says Sirwali.
The group was established in 2012 by a community-based organisation known as MAHE which Sirwali founded after she realised the need for a social gathering for senior citizens in the region.
At the time, Sirwali noticed that in many rural villages within the Vhembe district, most pensioners had no recreational activities or facilities to keep them busy and instead passed time by drinking excessive amounts of traditional beer.
Their addiction to beer placed them at a high risk of contracting chronic diseases such as high blood pressure.
And so she opened the social club which aims to improve their overall health.
Sirwali maintains that most of the women enjoy football and wear their t-shirts donated by the Department of Social Development when playing.
“They say it is fun and interesting. But we also have those who enjoy traditional dances as it reminds them of their youth.”
Dance styles range from Tshikona, Tshigombela and Malende.
Some of the health benefits for pensioners associated with regular exercises included increased strength and flexibility as well as a reduced risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.
Sirwali meanwhile adds that the organisation has decided to also try out other interactive activities such as modelling and acting in an effort to encourage more people to join them and build their confidence.
“Ever since I started coming here to participate in the games I feel healthy and strong. Everything we do gives us an opportunity to socialise with each other,” says Gerson Negondeni, 90. Although a male, Negondeni has taken interest in a different hobby- modelling.
Another pensioner Nyawasedza Munyadziwa, 76, who has joined the group says: “We used to believe that football was for youngsters only and never thought it could help us to keep fit and healthy.
"When we started, my feet were sore after running but now it no longer happens. I run a lot now and I am healthy and happy because of the games we perform here.”