Pasifika elders fight obesity and loneliness with Zumba

While their families are at work and school, Pasifika elders are letting their hair down in Auckland.

Every weekday at noon, a hundred people gather in the middle of Mangere’s town centre, dressed in colourful hats and shirts for an hour-long dance class led by an instructor on stage.

The free Zumba classes started in 2013 as part of a plan to get people moving in their older age and keep diabetes at bay – and they are still going strong.

As well as helping them to keep fit and healthy, the exercise-dance classes stave off loneliness.

“I come here because it makes me happy and I will see my friends,” one dancer said.

“You see all these people here – some of them are diabetic, some of them are blood pressures, and you come here, it’s just the right atmosphere with a different kind of people.”

The music has a Pacific vibe, the beats are played loud and the exercises have an island flare.

The oldest in the group is 89 years old, and counting.

“We are from Niue Island… and also my daughter, all come here for exercise,” she said.

Lasini Kahou has been coming to the free Zumba classes for seven years.

“[It makes me] happy, I get out from the house. It’s better than sitting at home and making my husband angry. I get out and come here, meet all these people every day from Monday to Saturday – not Sunday. Sunday, go church.”

Kahou said the Zumba classes keep her feeling fit and healthy – the nearby bakeries and fried chicken shops don’t get a look-in.

“It has helped a lot because I’m not that sick, I’m healthy, I’m in and out… meeting different people every day.”

Zumba in Māngere, Auckland.

Māngere-Ōtāhuhu has the largest population of Pacific people in Auckland.

The classes are free, funded through the local board. Kalolaine Tomu co-ordinates the classes, her husband is the instructor and their son the DJ. She said they enjoy encouraging people to keep moving and eat healthy – Pacific people have the highest rate of diabetes of all New Zealanders.

“They want to get out from the house, not babysitting and sitting around, eating, watching TV. They want to come here for the exercise and to meet other people,” Tomu said.

“We are Tongan, but we are meeting Samoan, Cook Island, Niuean, everyone. It’s good to see that everyone loves it.”

She said they look out for each other.

“The oldest is a guy – he passed away last two months [at] 94. They really want to get out out from the house and come here, so they stand up and when they get tired they have a little break and keep going.”

Zumba in Māngere, Auckland.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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