Put Your Right Foot In

my feet w:frog


two feet


4 feet


My mother had this great idea: “Come with me to senior exercise class,” she said one morning while I was visiting her.   “All the other mothers will be SO glad to see you. We’ll have such fun!” She was very excited, so I smiled and agreed.

Three of the women waiting in the main room of the community center were the mothers of my friends from high school, and they were all in their seventies at this point.  The other six women in the group were in their eighties. (This was twenty-five years ago, when my mother was seventy-three, long before she had dementia.)

The group “leader” was almost eighty; she used a cane to walk over and welcome me with a warm smile…and ask if I had my doctor’s permission to participate in their exercise class.     I was pretty sure my doctor would approve…the most strenuous activity was “The Hokey Pokey.”

You put your right foot in…you take your right foot out…you put your right foot in, and shake it all about.

line of people

Then you do the same with your left foot, then your right arm, then your left arm.   And for the grand finale: You put your whole self in…you put your whole self out…you put your whole self in, and shake it all about.    Everyone sang along with a loud recording of The Hokey Pokey song.

At the end of the forty-five minutes of stretches followed by hand waving and foot stomping, we concluded by marching in place, then holding onto chairs for balance while swinging our legs (one at a time) and tapping our feet until we were “glowing”—ladies didn’t sweat then, they glowed—from all the exercise.

Afterward, in the spirit of camaraderie for surviving The Hokey Pokey, we filled my car with other “glowing” seniors and went for donuts and conversation at Daylight Donuts.   Some even splurged and had a cup of hot cocoa, too, with whipped cream!   These ladies really knew how to have a good time.

August 6th is “Wiggle Your Toes Day.” All of the exercises above can be adjusted to include toe wiggling, or you can do my current favorite foot exercise, “The Alphabet Exercise.”   Lie on a mat or sit in a chair and stretch out your legs. Point the toes of both feet and simultaneously “draw” the letters of the alphabet, A-to-Z. And if you’re ambitious, do it again to really get those toes, feet and ankles going.

Do this on August 7th and 8th, too, for Happy Feet.   If it wears you out, August 9th is Book Lover’s Day to relax and curl up with a good book,  and August 10th is Lazy Day.    Donuts are optional.

The Bath  MG_1803



Filed under Dementia/Alzheimer's, Fort Scott Kansas, just doing the best we can, lessons about life

45 responses to “Put Your Right Foot In

  1. Phew Marylin, mind if I i give the exercise a miss and go straight to donuts with you?
    xxx Massive Hugs xxx

  2. Jane Sturgeon

    Wiggling my toes with you and on my way to share donuts…great stuff my lovely. ❤ xXx ❤

  3. My ninety-year-old aunt attended senior exercise every day, up until she had a stroke at eighty-seven. It’s so important to keep moving. Boy, August is a great month…books, lazy…toes…I love it!

    • Jill, this memory was so strong–and happy–that I had to share it. Now all three of those friends’ mothers who were there that day are gone, and my mother, at 98, needs help to walk. The memory of doing the Hokey Pokey (and watching the unsteady ladies out of the corner of my eye in case they needed help) is a much happier memory, sweetened by hot cocoa and donuts! 🙂

    • Jill, I went to Amazon to preorder your book, but didn’t have any success. Is it under a pen name?

  4. Jim

    I think I might be glistening from smiling so hard as I read this post. What fun! Hats off to the senior ladies’ exercise group. Great description, Marylin. I wish Norman Rockwell would have captured the moment too. It’s a version of Americana we don’t appreciate enough. Our seniors rock on, no matter what! Heck, if I’d known about the donuts, I would have come along too. 🙂

    • Oh, honey, as charming and helpful as you would have been–the ladies would have loved having you along, and I know you would have picked up the check for their donuts, too–I hate to be the one to tell you that this was a Ladies Only group. And now my mom at 98 is still hanging in there even though all of her friends from that day are gone, but it’s still a memory that makes me happy. ❤ ❤ ❤

  5. Marylin, my son John sings “you put your right arm in” etc when he is dressing Penelope. He started this two months ago or so when he was looking for a way to get her little arms through her clothing in a fun way. She absolutely loves this song and so do I. Hope you’re having a wonderful summer! xo Joanne

    • Joanne, I LOVE the image of your son singing this to little Penelope. What a fun thing to do, and she probably giggles at every verse!
      I’m having a wonderful August so far; it’s both Grace’s and Gannon’s birthdays this month, (12 and 11 now, though it doesn’t seem possible). Your comment has me remembering dressing them as babies and laughing and enjoying their antics. 🙂

  6. Ah, the Hokey Pokey is a real toe tapper. I chuckled when the instructor with the cane asked if your doctor would approve. And those ladies sure had their priorities right…donuts and cocoa afterward. Have a happy toe-tapping day, Marylin. ❤️

    • The entire memory is a happy toe-tapper for me, Tracy. And I still have to laugh at the instructor with her cane. I think she had to ask each visitor this question before letting them participate, but I was the one who watched my mom and her friends in case any of them lost their balance and started to fall. It was quite an “exercise” class, and I was certainly ready for coffee and a donut by the time it was over! 🙂 ❤

  7. What a delightful experience, thanks for sharing it. Mom is immobile but goes to the exercise classes in the nursing home and does things with her hands while sitting in her wheelchair as most of the residents do. I went with her one day and she was so glad I did. Thank heaven they try to keep them moving.

    • It does make a big difference, Darlene. Even at 73, my mom was still busy in her garden, cleaned her own house, took her walks with the dog and helped her friends, but this “exercise class” made a big difference in her mobility, I’m sure. Now at 98, she needs help walking at all, but she’s still done remarkably well. I think it’s true: if we don’t use it, we’ll lose it.

  8. This is majorly a great toe/foot exercise! And the marching in place reminded me of what my 92 year old mother says of her years in gym classes, where a major part of their exercise was marching in place which she HATED, back in the early ’30s. To her credit, she now counts her daily exercise following an instructor on TV (yes, seated) and then walking as briskly as she can either in her retirement home apartment halls (when the weather is unfit, heat or cold), or joyfully outside when it is fine, as very important!

    • When my mother was 92, she was still so busy walking and doing things on her own, which really helped her. Now at 98, she needs help with everything, but I think all those active, busy years are what have helped her this long. You mother sounds really on top of things, Melodie, especially following an exercise instructor on TV. Good for her!

  9. juliabarrett

    Kind of a put your foot in it month, I guess! My grandmother was the woman who led those exercises in her care home! She had a blast!

    • Did she have a cane, Julia? The one who had to question me before allowing me to participate looked like she’d use the cane to stop me if she decided I didn’t fit in! 😉 I hope when I’m in my 80s I’m as feisty and active and full of attitude!

      • juliabarrett

        She was in a wheelchair. She spent the last five years of her life pretty much paralyzed from the waist down. But she was spunky! She was a playwright, an actress, a jazz singer, a dancer… A brilliant woman. Never lost a mental step until the day she died. Her grandchildren were such a disappointment. She had twelve and not one of us can carry a tune or act a lick. On the other hand, we are all writers.

      • What a talented, amazing woman your mother was, Julia! Even though her 12 grandchildren were “only” writers and couldn’t carry a tune or act, I’d bet the gene pool was strong and her great-grandchildren are multi-talented! 🙂

  10. Nancy Parker Brummett

    Great memory. Reminds me of when the inventor of the Hokey Pokey died. They had trouble getting him in the coffin. They put his right foot in but then his left foot came out! 🙂

  11. I love this story. Now that I’m in my seventies my exercises are a bit more strenuous…but times have changed, haven’t they?

  12. Oh, they certainly are…and we don’t “glow” and then go out for donuts and hot cocoa with whipped cream afterwards, either. 🙂 But in 1991 in a little Kansas town, women in their 70s and 80s meeting to do this was still pretty impressive.

  13. I am smiling from ear to ear, Marylin! Such a lovely memory. The Hokie-Pokie brings back so many fond memories from my childhood and from playing with my own children. I so love your blog…you always make me smile! XOXO

    • Robyn, I would love to see what your amazing photography could capture at a senior Hokey-Pokey fest! In black and white, capturing the fun and joy of movement! 🙂 ❤ And then an “after” picture of them sitting together, eating donuts, wiping whipped cream from their faces and laughing…the true Golden Years!

  14. Keeta

    Thinking I’ll do all 3 days: Wiggle your toes: Book lovers day: Lazy donut day —doesn’t get any better than that!!!!!!

  15. i used to go occasionally with my mom to chair exercise at her senior living complex… still remember it though we didn’t have quite that much fun! I still remember the exercises, even now that I am older than your mother was in this story. Yesterday as usual I was definitely the oldest person in my yoga class (not in a senior living complex … yet).

    • There is something wonderful about moving–and not stretching–and encouraging each other, Sallie, and these senior exercise classes accomplish all three! I go to exercise classes for both yoga and strength and balance work. It really does make a difference, but we don’t got out for hot cocoa and donuts afterward. 🙂

  16. You put your whole self in and out comes pretty amazing blog posts. This one was particularly meaningful since after hefting boxes of stuff for our move, all I want is a warm bath. Come to think of it, I could lie in the bubbles and do the alphabet exercise, long enough for the epsom salts to penetrate my tired muscles.

    I love Nancy’s comment – and almost believed it. 🙂 I seem to remember a long time ago Mother Queen Mary said “When you stop [moving], you’re done!) Of course she’s right.

    (Move date is Tuesday, Aug. 9 – hallelujer!) In the meantime, thanks for keeping us apprised of what you see on your Special Days on the Calendar.

    • There are few “activities” that set our muscles on fire and drain our energy like moving from one home to another, Marian. If I think of all that went into clearing out my parents’ house after 55 years in one place and then downsizing them and moving them into their assisted living (which was more emotional than physical) just thinking about it can still send my muscles into spasms.
      I laugh every time I think of Nancy’s comment, too. I was believing every word at the beginning! 🙂

  17. I can just picture all those seniors having a riotous time while putting their toes in and out. Strangely, we call that song the Hokey Cokey here…how things get lost in translation!

    • Hokey Cokey? I love it, Jenny. You always give me a new interpretation of words, and this one is so much fun. Especially since, at that time in my mother’s life, there was no treat she liked better than to have an ice cold Coke! 🙂

  18. This is great Marylin, I go to a stretching class that is my all time favorite. No singing but a lot of joking and stretching. It’s in my health club and people of all ages come. The average age is 70.

    • Excellent, Gerlinde!
      I go to a Stretch and Balance group, and the instructor is 71. She sells the program because we’re all in awe that she can work circles around us, and we’re all younger. It reminds us how important it is to stay with the program and do the stretches and balance exercises! 😉

  19. jakesprinter

    Hello Marylin ..i really love this new article ..thanks for sharing my dear friend .. 🙂

  20. I chuckled at this description, Marylin, and it brought up a memory for me of my Mennonite mother in a Mennonite retirement community doing Tai Chi. I would never have predicted that one!

    I think the Hokey Pokey will be just right for our family at the beach in another week. Owen and Julia will love it. Thanks for the reminder.

  21. Owen and Julia will love it, Shirley, and soon they’ll have you all hopping around, laughing, especially on the beach. And you can make up your own additional verses!
    Have a terrific time with your family.

  22. I had a yoga instructor who insisted we interlace our toes at every meeting. She said doing so would keep ANY foot problems away. It was painful at first, but got easier. What a great thing to share with your mom. (and remind be to get back to lacing my toes while I watch TV)

    • Wow, I learn something new with every post! After reading this, I interlaced my toes for the first time. It was painful at first, but already I can understand your yoga instructor insisting on this. (And yes, I’m going to get in the same habit as you did, and practice while I watch TV!) Thanks for sharing this. 😉

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